Testicular Atrophy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention
What Is Testicular Atrophy?
Testicular Atrophy is a pathological condition in which there is abnormal shrinkage of the testicles. In this case, the testicles are healthy to start with but gradually over time the testicles start to shrink without any known cause. This condition can be caused due to a variety of reasons although the primary reason is hormonal imbalance and recreational drug abuse. This condition can also be caused due to old age, any injury to the testicular area, or certain underlying medical conditions. Individuals who have this condition have decreased libido and also may have infertility. All of this depends on the degree of damage to the testicles and the cause of the disease.
What Are The Causes Of Testicular Atrophy?
To understand the cause of Testicular Atrophy, it is important to understand the anatomy of the testicles. Each testicle is made up of mainly two types of cells, one is the germ cell and the second is the Leydig cells. The function of the germ cell is to produce sperms and the function of the Leydig cell is to produce testosterone. In normal circumstances, a healthy male produces both these cell types in equal proportions causing the testicles to be round, firm, and full. In cases of Testicular Atrophy, any one of these cell types or in some cases both these cells types start to die causing a battery of changes including fluctuations in fluid levels which then causes the individual to have extremely shrunken testicles which is very soft and loose.
- Testicular Atrophy Caused Due To Hormonal Imbalance: Hormonal imbalance by far is the most common cause of Testicular Atrophy. At times, these hormonal imbalances can be insidious but more often than not they are caused due to a side effect of certain medications that the individual might be taking for some medical conditions. Also, exposure to radiation also causes hormonal imbalances. Chronic steroid use can also cause hormonal imbalance in some individuals. This is so because while taking steroids the individual is injecting testosterone inside his body through an outside source which makes the body believe that there is enough production of testosterone and thus leads to decreased production of this hormone leading to reduced production of sperms ultimately causing Testicular Atrophy. Stopping use of steroids may reverse the condition in some cases but it depends on the extent of the damage already done.
- Diseases and Other Medical Conditions That Can Cause Testicular Atrophy: Certain medical conditions like the mumps virus or HIV have been shown to cause Testicular Atrophy. Sexually transmitted diseases also play an important role in development of Testicular Atrophy. The condition in some cases may be reversed with treatment especially treatment of sexually transmitted diseases but again it all depends on the extent of damage already made.
- Testicular Atrophy Caused Due To Injury: Any sort of injury to the groin region or medical diseases which might affect the testicular region like prostate cancer may also cause Testicular Atrophy.
- Alcoholism: Chronic alcohol use can also cause Testicular Atrophy, as chronic alcohol abuse may cause cirrhosis of the liver which has a negative impact on the testes causing it to shrink.
- Age: Testicular Atrophy can also occur due to natural aging of an individual. Men who have crossed their age of reproduction often at times experience shrinkage of the testicles.
What Are The Symptoms Of Testicular Atrophy?
Some of the symptoms of Testicular Atrophy are:
- Pain in the testicles
- Sexual dysfunction
- Decreased libido.
How Is Testicular Atrophy Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose Testicular Atrophy, the treating physician will first take a detailed history of the individual asking in detail about the lifestyle of the individual, especially if the individual had a prior history of any inappropriate or unprotected sexual encounters, if there was a prior or current history of alcohol or drug abuse or any history of chronic steroid use. Once through with the history taking, the physician will then conduct a detailed physical examination of the scrotal areas by firmly palpating the testes and scrotum. The physician will also examine the external genitalia as well. If Testicular Atrophy is suspected, in order to confirm the diagnosis the physician will order the following tests.
- Testicular Ultrasound: This test is done to identify the blood flow to the testicular areas and to identify any abnormalities there.
- Blood Test: A blood test will also be done in order to look for any evidence of any infection which may be causing the symptoms.
- Hormone Assay: The physician will also order tests to determine if there is any decrease in the testosterone levels of the individual which is a classic sign for Testicular Atrophy.
What Are Treatments For Testicular Atrophy?
The treatment for Testicular Atrophy is based on the underlying cause for the disease and then treating the cause. While taking the history of the individual, the physician will have knowledge of whether the individual has a prior history of medical conditions like trauma, mumps, STDs etc. and thus treatment will be formulated based on this information. In majority of the cases, Testicular Atrophy is not reversible and the testicle remains shrunken permanently, although if this condition is detected early enough then are some chances of partial recovery from testicular atrophy and further damage to the testicle can also be prevented. Citing an example, if Testicular Atrophy is caused due to excessive alcohol abuse then abstaining from alcohol completely may prevent further damage to the testicle. Timely treatment of sexually transmitted diseases also goes a long way in helping prevent permanent damage to the testicles. If the individual is suffering from a medical condition like testicular torsion then prompt treatment of this condition with surgery may reverse Testicular Atrophy. Additionally, hormone replacement therapy may also be prescribed for the affected individual. Also, certain lifestyle alterations like regular exercises, eating a healthy diet, and remaining sexually active also help in preventing Testicular Atrophy.
How Can Testicular Atrophy Be Prevented?
Since mumps virus increases the risk for Testicular Atrophy hence appropriate vaccination is advised. Apart from this, adopting a healthy lifestyle and staying away from alcohol and drugs and enjoying a healthy sex life also helps preventing Testicular Atrophy.