Undescended testes, or cryptorchidism, is a condition in which one testis or both testes (or testicles) does not descend from the abdomen into the scrotum by the time of birth. The scrotum is the sac of skin beneath the penis and is the proper location of the testes. This condition is more common among baby boys who are born prematurely, or before 37 weeks of pregnancy. This is a common condition that affects about 30% of premature and 4% of full term male births. Other risk factors for undescended testes are a low birth weight, a family history of undescended testes, having a mother affected by diabetes or obesity, and having a mother who smoked or used alcohol during pregnancy.
During development in the womb, the testes will naturally descend from the abdomen to the scrotum through a tube-like structure called the inguinal canal. If the testes fail to descend, they may be located in the abdomen or in the canal, or they may be completely absent. In a male who is born with only one testicle or with no testicles in the scrotum, it is most common for the testes to be undescended testes and to be located in the inguinal canal. Undescended testes may increase the risk for testicular cancer, and having two undescended testes may affect fertility. This condition can be diagnosed by a doctor by a physical examination.
The goal of treatment for undescended testes is to get the testis or testes to move into the scrotum. Sometimes this may happen naturally, usually by the time the boy reaches 9 months of age, or a doctor may be able to help. If the testes do not descend by 9 months of age, they can be relocated by a minor surgery known as orchiopexy. If your son has been diagnosed with undescended testes, talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options.