Epididymitis is infection or less frequently, inflammation of the epididymis (the coiled tube on the back of the testicle). The majority of men that develop epididymitis develop it because of a bacterial infection. Although males of any age can develop epididymitis, it occurs most frequently between ages of 20 to 39. When it develops in children, it is usually due to inflammation caused by trauma. However, some children develop it because of bacterial infections, some of which may be due to sexual abuse. In general, individuals have discomfort and pain in the area of the testicle(s) or groin; some may develop fever, penile discharge and blood in the urine.
The epididymis is a firm tube that lies on the back surface of each testicle. It is coiled in order to fit a length of nearly 20 feet into a small space. This long length acts as a storage space for the sperm and gives sperm time to mature. The epididymis can be divided into three sections: 1) the head (an expanded upper end), 2) the body, and 3) the pointed tail.
The epididymis also absorbs fluid and adds substances to help nourish the maturing sperm. Each epididymis is directly attached to the testicle so that if the epididymis becomes infected or develops inflammation, the testicle may also develop infection or inflammation. This is termed epididymo-orchitis (infection/inflammation of both the epididymis and testicle). Also, testicular infection is the most common reason for inflammation in the scrotum. The other end of the epididymis attaches to the vas deferens which leads to the prostate gland and then to the urethra. Infections and inflammation often proceed retrograde (also termed backflow) from the urethra; rarely is infection/inflammation spread through the blood to the epididymis.
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