Testicular Atrophy: Everything You Need to Know
- Published on August 10, 2022
Testicular atrophy is the condition where the male reproductive glands – your testicles – shrink.
Testicles are a part of the male reproductive system. They are housed in the scrotum, whose major function is to regulate the temperature of the testicles.
Temperature regulation is important because the testicles produce sperm that require a certain temperature range to remain healthy and survive longer.
As the surrounding area gets colder, the scrotum shrinks; if the surrounding area gets warmer than optimal, the scrotum relaxes and expands. This results in variations in the size of your testicles – which is completely normal.
However, testicular atrophy is a condition where your testicles shrink more than the temperature regulatory function of the scrotum.
To understand this condition in more detail, keep reading.
What is Testicular Atrophy?
Testicular atrophy is a condition which causes shrinking of your testicles, which isn’t a result of scrotum function. It can occur in males of all ages, whether they have gone through puberty or not.
While temperature regulation happens through the scrotal muscles, testicular atrophy happens in your actual glands – the testicles – that are housed inside the scrotum.
Reasons like injury, exposure to certain chemicals, or even a medical condition can cause testicular atrophy. This may make your testicles appear smaller than usual, in addition to certain other symptoms which may or may not be present, depending on how your body responds to this condition.
Let’s now understand the symptoms you may experience in testicular atrophy.
Testicular Atrophy Symptoms
The tell-tale sign of testicular atrophy is the shrinking of your testicles. If you experience that the size of your testicles is smaller than usual, consider consulting a medical professional for advice and diagnosis. Depending on how old you are, you may experience certain additional symptoms which differ and manifest differently as you age.
Let’s understand testicular atrophy symptoms in detail.
– Testicular Atrophy Symptoms Pre-Puberty
If you are a male who hasn’t experienced puberty yet, your symptoms will differ from those of older males. You may experience:
- Absence of facial and pubic hair – the secondary characteristics of sex
- Penis size that is larger than normal
It is best to consult your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms.
– Testicular Atrophy Symptoms Post-Puberty
If you are an older male who has already experienced puberty, your symptoms will differ from those of younger males. You may experience some or all of the following:
- Reduced sex drive
- Reduced muscle mass
- Reduction in the growth of pubic hair/absence of pubic hair growth
- Soft testicles
In case you find yourself experiencing one or more of the symptoms listed above, consult your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. Let’s now understand what causes testicular atrophy.
Also Read: How to overcome male infertility
Testicular Atrophy Causes
There are several causes responsible for testicular atrophy. These reasons could include certain medical conditions or injury to the area. Several other causes for testicular atrophy are listed below.
Similar to the condition of Menopause in women, some males may undergo “Andropause”. Andropause results in a dip in the testosterone levels in men, which may lead to the development of testicular atrophy.
– Testicular Torsion
Your scrotum gets its blood supply from the spermatic cord. In testicular torsion, the spermatic cord experiences a twist which reduces the blood supply to the scrotum. This results in pain and inflammation in the testicles, and if ignored, it may lead to permanent testicular atrophy.
Similar to varicose veins, varicoceles occur in the area close to the testicles. Typical varicoceles are observed to affect the left testicle. They have the potential to damage the sperm tubes, which can make the affected testicle smaller.
– Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT)
If you have chosen to undergo TRT, your body will undergo several hormonal changes. TRT stops the release of GnRH, which impacts the production of luteinizing hormone in the pituitary gland.
Without this hormone, the testicles can’t produce testosterone, and it results in smaller testicles.
– Alcohol Abuse
Bad lifestyle habits that centre on alcohol consumption cause damage to testicular tissue and lower testosterone levels. This may cause testicular atrophy.
– Use of Oestrogen
Consumption or use of oestrogen or anabolic steroids can cause a similar cascade of hormonal changes in your body, leading to testicular atrophy.
Certain viral or bacterial infections can lead to swelling and pain in the testicles and lead to orchitis. It is a condition that leads to testicular atrophy.
Viral orchitis occurs from the mumps virus, impacting about one-third of post-puberty men who contract the virus. Bacterial orchitis is the result of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhoea.
Testicular Atrophy Diagnosis
The examination for testicular atrophy diagnosis begins with asking certain personal but necessary questions. To rule out the possibility of alcohol abuse and sexually transmitted diseases as the potential causes, you may be asked to elaborate on your lifestyle and sexual practices.
Once that is out of the way, your doctor would request a physical examination of the testicles to determine their condition – texture, firmness, size, etc. Upon the results of the physical examination, they may prescribe further tests to arrive at a concrete diagnosis:
- Complete blood count
- Testicular ultrasound
- Testosterone level test
Based on the results of your answers, physical examination and the tests listed above, your doctor will be able to determine whether or not you have testicular atrophy.
Testicular Atrophy Treatment
Testicular atrophy treatment depends on the manner in which you acquired this condition.
If you have a history of alcohol abuse, a change in your lifestyle may help treat the symptoms. If you were the victim of a sexually transmitted disease, a course of antibiotics might be prescribed to treat that condition first.
In the case of testicular torsion, the intervention of surgical methods is necessary to detangle the cord.
Testicular atrophy isn’t a reversible condition; in many cases, the atrophy remains permanent. However, early detection and the right treatment can significantly help you reverse the effects of testicular atrophy.
Testicular atrophy can be a permanent issue, but if you detect it in the early stages and get it treated, you might get relief, and it would help you cope with the condition. Birla Fertility and IVF can be located in metro cities, and the clinic has a team of experienced doctors, specialists, counsellors and friendly support staff.
If you suspect you might have Testicular atrophy, head over to Birla Fertility & IVF or contact Dr. Radhika Bajpai to avail state-of-the-art medical treatment.
FAQs About Testicular Atrophy:
1. What happens if you have testicular atrophy?
If you have testicular atrophy, your testes will produce lesser sperm and testosterone. It would shrink to a size smaller than usual due to the loss of Leydig and germ cells which help the glands function normally. You should get medical consultation as soon as possible.
2. Can a testicle recover from atrophy?
Testicle atrophy treatments usually focus on treating the condition that causes atrophy in the first place. The reversibility of testicular atrophy, though, cannot be guaranteed; in the cases of early diagnosis and accurate treatment, it may be reversed. Many cases of testicular atrophy experience permanent shrinkage.
3. What lifestyle changes occur at testicular atrophy?
As the first line of treatment for testicular atrophy, lifestyle changes may be prescribed. These may include stopping alcohol abuse, quitting smoking, stopping drug use, if any, and practising sexual abstinence for some time.
4. What are the two types of atrophy?
There are two types of atrophies: disuse and neurogenic. Disuse atrophy is caused when the muscles fall into disuse for a long time. For example, being on bed rest after an accident. Neurogenic muscle atrophy occurs when a nerve connecting to a muscle is diseased or damaged.
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