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What is an undescended testicle?

Also called cryptorchidism, an undescended testicle is one that hasn't moved from the abdomen to the scrotum, the pouch that normally holds the testicles.

The testicles usually descend into the scrotum just before or just after birth. Testicles are less likely to descend normally when a boy is born prematurely, according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). But 3% to 5% of male babies who are born on time have undescended testicles.

Complications

The temperature inside the body is too high for the testicles—that's why they're supposed to drop into the scrotum, where it's cooler. Testicles that remain in the abdomen will slowly lose their ability to produce sperm.

Cancer is also more likely in an undescended testicle, according to the American Cancer Society.

Treatment

An undescended testicle will often move into the scrotum on its own by the time a baby is a few months old, according to the AAFP. If it hasn't, a hormone called HCG may be given in a shot. This hormone prompts the testicles to produce more male hormones, and the hormone surge may make the testicle descend.

If the testicle hasn't descended in nine months, surgery may be recommended. It's called orchiopexy and is done through a small cut in the groin, to physically move the testicle into the scrotum.

After treatment most boys develop normally and their sexual function and fertility aren't affected, according to the Urology Care Foundation.  

Reviewed 5/22/2020

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