Male Reproductive Disorders: Cryptorchidism

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  • 0:02 What Is Cryptorchidism?
  • 0:32 Cryptorchidism…
  • 2:42 Risk Factors & Complications
  • 3:46 Diagnosis & Treatment
  • 4:44 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

An undescended testicle can worry any parent of a baby boy. It may or may not resolve on its own, and if it doesn't, it can lead to serious problems without proper care. You'll find out what those problems are as you go through this lesson.

What Is Cryptorchidism?

To me, it doesn't really matter if you're a doctor, plumber, or graphics designer. If someone comes up to you and tells you they have something stuck somewhere, then it's virtually never a good thing. I mean, what can get stuck on or in you that's a good thing? So, when a testicle or both testicles are stuck inside of a boy instead of being located normally in the scrotum, we call this condition cryptorchidism.

Cryptorchidism Pathophysiology & Stats

To help remember this definition, breaking it apart into prefixes and suffixes may help. 'Crypto-' refers to something hidden, while '-orchis' refers to a testicle. Cryptorchidism is the most common genital problem of babies - male babies, of course.

Normally, a child's testicles should drop through an important structure called the inguinal canal. This is a passageway that leads from the abdomen (the tummy), where the testicles begin their development, into the scrotum (which is the testicular sac). If a testicle is stuck in the abdomen or, more commonly, in this inguinal canal while on its way into the scrotum, then the child is cryptorchid.

Most babies have both testicles located in the scrotum by the end of the full term of pregnancy. But some full-term babies, and particularly premature boys, may be born with one or more undescended testicles. To put this into perspective for you, when a boy is born at full term the chances of having cryptorchidism is 3%, but this chance is ten times greater if the boy is born prematurely. When cryptorchidism does occur, 90% of the time it involves only one testicle. Moreover, two-thirds of children born with cryptorchidism will have their undescended testicles drop into the scrotum spontaneously by four months of age. The chances this will occur after one year of age are quite slim.

Overall, it is not fully understood why cryptorchidism occurs, but hormones during a baby's development seem to play a very important role in ensuring the inguinal canal opens just wide enough for the testicles to drop into the scrotum. That is coupled with other factors, like pressure within the abdomen, that helps to push the testicles into the scrotum through the inguinal canal. If any of these factors go askew, a testicle or testicles stuck in the abdomen or inguinal canal can be the result.

Risk Factors & Complications

Other than premature birth, there are other risk factors associated with the development of cryptorchidism, and they include:

  • A low birth weight
  • Small size for a baby's gestational age
  • Having twins
  • Siblings that had the same problems

What is essential for you to remember for this lesson is that cryptorchidism is a problem to worry about later in life. It's not just about the baby. The real problem lies in the issues this condition causes to a man that was born cryptorchid.

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