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What is epididymitis?

Epididymitis is inflammation (swelling) of the epididymis. The epididymis is a tightly coiled tube at the back of each testicle that stores sperm while they mature.

Epididymitis often occurs at the same time as orchitis, which is inflammation of the testes themselves.

What are the symptoms of epididymitis?

If you have epididymitis, your testicle will be:

  • tender or painful
  • unusually warm
  • swollen or firm

You might also feel sick, with fever and chills.

If your epididymitis is related to a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you may also have some discharge from the penis. It may also sting or burn when you urinate (pee).

If your epididymitis is related to a urinary tract infection (UTI), you might also have:

  • abdominal pain
  • the need to urinate often
  • a burning feeling when you pee

Chronic epididymitis is when you have discomfort and/or pain in your scrotum, testicle, or epididymis for at least 3 months. Often the reason for chronic epididymitis isn’t known.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the sexual health and lower body Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

What causes epididymitis?

Epididymitis is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection.

If you are sexually active and under the age of 35, or have a new partner, your epididymitis might be caused by sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as:

Bacteria such as E. coli, can also cause epididymitis. This is most common in people who:

  • are older
  • engage in anal sex

Epididymitis can also be caused by:

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any pain or swelling in your testicles, you should see a doctor straight away. Diagnosis will help rule out any serious complications, such as testicular torsion.

If you think you or somebody else is experiencing testicular torsion, go to the nearest emergency department immediately.

Treatment of epididymitis will minimise the risk of complications.

How is epididymitis diagnosed?

Your doctor will talk to you and examine you. You might be asked to have blood tests or urine tests. You might also be asked to have an ultrasound.

How is epididymitis treated?

Bacterial epididymitis can be treated with antibiotics. Rest, anti-inflammatory drugs, pain relief, ice packs and supportive underwear that elevates your testicles can also help.

If your symptoms don’t go away with treatment, you may need to see a specialist. A few people might need surgery.

Can epididymitis be prevented?

You can help prevent epididymitis by practising safe sex.

If you get UTIs frequently, ask your doctor for tips on how to prevent them.

Complications of epididymitis

If untreated, epididymitis can lead to complications such as:

Resources and Support

More information on epididymitis is also available from:

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Last reviewed: August 2022

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