Testicular Atrophy: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment

Testicular atrophy occurs when one or both testicles are visibly reduced in size. This happens mainly due to varicocele in a testicle, which is characterized by a dilation of a testicular vein, however atrophy can also occur with orchitis or a sexually transmitted infection.

In addition to reduced size of one or both testicles, men may present with other symptoms such as low libido, reduced muscle mass, infertility and hair loss.

To confirm a diagnosis, the urologist may recommend laboratory and imaging tests to determine what is causing the atrophy. Identifying the cause can help to guide treatment, which may include antibiotics, hormone replacement and even surgery in cases of torsion or cancer.

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Possible causes

The main cause of testicular atrophy is a varicocele, which is the dilation of a vein in the testicles. This dilation leads to the accumulation of blood in the area and the appearance of symptoms such as pain, a feeling of heaviness and swelling in the area.

Furthermore, itrophy can occur die to less common conditions like orchitis caused by mumps, testicular torsion, direct trauma to the area, inflammation, STIs and even testicular cancer. In rare cases, testicular atrophy may be the result of alcohol or drug abuse, or the use of anabolic steroids, as these can influence hormonal levels. 

Main symptoms

The main symptom of testicular atrophy is the visible reduction in the size of one or both testicles, but this can be accompanied by other symptoms such as:

  • Reduced libido
  • Decrease in muscle mass
  • Loss and reduction in body hair growth
  • Feeling of heaviness in the testicles
  • Testicles with altered consistency
  • Infertility

When the cause of atrophy is inflammation, infection or torsion, symptoms such as pain, excessive sensitivity and nausea may also be reported. If testicular atrophy is suspected, you should consult a urologist, as leaving it untreated can lead to infertility and even loss of the organ.

Confirming a diagnosis

To confirm what is causing the atrophy, the urologist will start by physically examining the testicles and assessing their size, firmness and texture. The doctor may also ask questions about the onset of symptoms and whether the patient is experiencing pain. 

He or she may also order bloodwork like a testosterone level or complete blood count to identify or rule out a viral or bacterial infection. Imaging tests can also be ordered to check blood flow and to identify whether there is a torsion, cyst or cancer present in the affected area.

Treatment options

Treatment for testicular atrophy should be indicated by the urologist and will depend on the underlying cause. The doctor may prescribe medication to promote symptom relief and treat any infections that may be present, however more serious cases may require surgical intervention. 

When testicular atrophy is caused by testicular cancer, surgery may be indicated to remove the tumor, followed by conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy as necessary.

Testicular atrophy caused by torsion in the testicle, it is important for surgery to be performed promptly to restore blood flow and prevent cellular death.