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Scrotal Pain

by Anuja P. Shah, MD

Pain in the scrotum (the sac that surrounds and protects the testes) can occur in males of any age, from newborns to older men. The testes are very sensitive, so even minor injuries may cause pain or discomfort.


Pain may be directly related to the testes or be caused by disorders in the scrotum, groin, or abdomen.

Common causes

The most common causes of sudden scrotal pain include

  • Twisting of a testis (testicular torsion)

  • Twisting of the testicular appendage (a small piece of tissue attached to the testis)

  • Inflammation of the epididymis (epididymitis)

Testicular torsion (see Testicular Torsion) occurs when a testis twists on its spermatic cord. The twisting blocks blood flow to the testis, causing pain and sometimes death of the testis. Testicular torsion is more common in newborns and after puberty. Torsion can also occur in the testicular appendage, a small piece of basically functionless tissue that is left over from development of the embryo. Like testicular torsion, the twisting of the testicular appendage can block blood flow, causing pain. Torsion of the testicular appendage is more common among boys aged 7 to 14.

Epididymitis (see Epididymitis and Epididymo-orchitis ) is inflammation of the coiled tube on top of the testis in which sperm mature. Epididymitis is the most common cause of scrotal pain in adults. Epididymitis is usually caused by an infection, typically a sexually transmitted one. However, sometimes there is no infection. In such cases, doctors believe the epididymis becomes inflamed by reverse flow of urine into the epididymis, perhaps because of straining (as when people lift something heavy).

Less common causes

There are a number of less common causes. Less common causes include

  • A hernia in the groin (inguinal hernia)

  • Infection of the testis (orchitis), usually caused by mumps or another virus

  • Pain from a disorder in the abdomen (such as a kidney stone or appendicitis)

  • Injury

Dangerous disorders that sometimes cause scrotal pain include a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm and necrotizing infection of the perineum—the area between the genitals and anus—called Fournier gangrene. Cancer of a testis only rarely causes pain.


The following information can help people decide when immediate medical attention is necessary and help them know what to expect during the evaluation.

Warning signs

In men with pain in the scrotum, certain symptoms and characteristics are cause for concern. They include

  • Sudden, severe pain

  • Swelling in the scrotum or groin area, particularly one that cannot be pushed down and that is accompanied by severe pain or vomiting

  • Blisters and/or red or black discoloration of the scrotum or the area between the penis and the anus

  • Symptoms of severe illness, such as high fever, difficulty breathing, sweating, dizziness, or confusion

When to see a doctor

Men or boys who have warning signs or are in severe pain should see a doctor immediately because some causes of pain can lead to loss of a testis or other severe complications. People without warning signs should see a doctor in a day or two.

What the doctor does

Doctors first ask questions about the person's symptoms and medical history and then do a physical examination. What they find during the history and physical examination often suggests a cause of the scrotal pain and the tests that may need to be done (see Table, above).

Doctors ask

  • Where the pain is located

  • How long pain has been present

  • Whether there are injuries to the groin area

  • About the man's sexual history

  • Whether there are any problems urinating (such as burning or discharge)

  • Whether there are any disorders that may cause pain to travel to the groin

Although the physical examination concentrates on the genitals, the groin area, and the abdomen, doctors also look for signs of disorders elsewhere that may cause pain to be felt in the scrotum. Doctors first look to identify disorders that require immediate treatment. The onset and nature of the pain and the age of the person can provide clues to the cause.

Some Causes and Features of Scrotal Pain


Common Features*


Testicular torsion (twisting of a testis)

Severe, constant pain that begins suddenly in one testis

A testis that may be pulled up closer to the body than the other testis

Most often occurring in newborns and boys after puberty but sometimes in adults


Torsion of the testicular appendage (twisting of a small piece of tissue attached to the testis)

Pain that usually develops over several days and that occurs in the top part of the testis

Sometimes swelling around the testis

Typically occurring in boys aged 7–14 years


Epididymitis (inflammation of the epididymis) or epididymo-orchitis (inflammation of an epididymis and testis)

Pain that begins gradually or suddenly in the epididymis and sometimes the testis

Possibly frequent urination or pain or burning during urination

Possibly in men who have recently been doing heavy lifting or straining

Often swelling of the scrotum

Sometimes a discharge from the penis

Typically occurring in boys after puberty and in men

Urinalysis and urine culture

Sometimes tests for sexually transmitted diseases


In men who have had an injury to the genitals

Often swelling of the scrotum


Inguinal hernia (a hernia in the groin)

Typically in men who have had painless bulge in the groin for a long time, often in those already known to have a hernia

A bulge that

  • Feels soft and balloon-like

  • Typically enlarges when men are in an upright position or pressure within the abdomen increases (for example, when bearing down as if having a bowel movement or when doing heavy lifting)

  • Sometimes disappears when lying down

  • Can sometimes be pushed back into the abdomen

Pain that begins gradually or suddenly, typically when the bulge cannot be pushed back into the abdomen

Only a doctor's examination

Referred pain (for example, pain that comes from an abdominal aortic aneurysm, stones in the urinary tract, pressure on spinal nerve roots in the lower part of the spine, appendicitis, or a tumor or pain that occurs after a hernia is repaired)

Normal results detected during examination of the scrotum

Sometimes abdominal tenderness

Depends on examination findings and the suspected cause

Orchitis (infection of the testis), usually due to a virus, such as the mumps virus

Pain in the scrotum and abdomen, nausea, and fever

Swelling and sometimes redness of the scrotum

Repeated blood tests to measure antibodies to the virus suspected to be the cause

Necrotizing infection of the perineum (the area between the genitals and anus), called Fournier gangrene

Severe pain, an ill appearance, fever, and sometimes confusion, difficulty breathing, sweating, or dizziness

Redness of the scrotum or blistering or dead tissue in the genital area

Sometimes in men who have recently had abdominal surgery

More common among older men with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or both

Usually only a doctor's examination

Sometimes imaging tests

*Features include symptoms and the results of the doctor's examination. Features mentioned are typical but not always present.


The need for tests depends on what doctors find during the history and physical examination. However, some testing is typically done.

  • Urinalysis and urine culture

  • Testing for sexually transmitted diseases

  • Color Doppler ultrasonography if testicular torsion seems possible

Timely surgery for testicular torsion is critical, so when doctors are very concerned about testicular torsion they may do surgery immediately instead of testing.


The best treatment of scrotal pain is treatment of the cause of pain. For example, testicular torsion, strangulated hernias, and necrotizing infection require prompt surgery.

Doctors may give analgesics, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or opioids, to relieve severe pain.

Essentials for Older People

Testicular torsion is uncommon in older men. When it occurs, the symptoms may be unusual, making the diagnosis more difficult. Epididymitis and orchitis are more common in older men. Sexually transmitted diseases are less often the cause of epididymitis. Occasionally, inguinal hernia, perforation of the colon, or kidney stones (renal colic) may cause scrotal pain in older men.

Key Points

  • Testicular torsion is the first consideration in males with sudden onset of scrotal pain, particularly in children and adolescents.

  • Epididymitis is the most common cause of scrotal pain in men, particularly those with discharge or burning or pain during urination.

  • Doctors may do surgery instead of imaging tests if they are particularly concerned about testicular torsion.

  • Scrotal pain can be caused by pain that is referred from the abdomen.

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