A child's testicles develop before birth. They start inside the abdomen. The testicles should then move down into the scrotum just before birth. Undescended testes stay in or return to the abdomen. A true undescended testicles situation is present at birth. The testicle remains in the abdomen until treated. Other situations that allow the testicles to go up into the abdomen include:
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Undescended testicles are often caused by a disruption in the development of the testicles. The cause of this disruption is not clear. Genetics may play a role. There may also be some problems with the hormones that help testes develop. The testicles may also have been injured at some point during the pregnancy.
Factors that may increase your child's chance of undescended testicles include:
The main symptom is not being able to see or feel the testicle.
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A diagnosis is usually made during the physical exam. The doctor will note that one or both of the child’s testes cannot be felt within the scrotum.
Your child's bodily structures may need to be viewed. This can be done with ultrasound or laparoscopy.
Undescended testicles are treated because they may increase the risk of certain health conditions such as:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:
There are no current guidelines to prevent undescended testes.
Healthy Children—American Academy of Pediatrics
National Infertility Association
Infertility Awareness Association of Canada
Cryptorchidism. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 21, 2014. Accessed June 3, 2014.
Docimo S, et al. The undescended testicle: Diagnosis and management. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Nov 1;62(9):2037
Undescended testicles. American Academy of Family Physicians Family doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/undescended-testicles.html. Updated April 2014. Accessed June 3, 2014.
Undescended testicles. American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website. Available at: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/health-issues/conditions/genitourinary-tract/Pages/Undescended-Testicles.aspx. Updated May 11, 2013. Accessed June 3, 2014.
Last reviewed January 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 6/3/2014