What Causes Hydroceles and Hernias?

How the testicles descend into the scrotum during pregnancy
How the testicles descend into the scrotum during pregnancy
Image © 2003 Fairman Studios, LLC.


The testicles develop near the kidneys in the abdomen. By the end of pregnancy, they move down to their normal position in the scrotum.

A muscle lining opens in the scrotum (the inguinal ring) to let the testes drop from the abdomen, forming a sac or canal. If the ring stays open or reopens, a small amount of fluid can move from the belly to the scrotum through this passage. This causes a hydrocele. In most boys this canal closes.

Hydroceles can also happen after injury and swelling of the scrotum. They can get better in a few months. If not, they need medical attention.


Inguinal hernias happen when the open lining does not close before birth. That leaves a weak area in the groin. Pressure can cause the intestine to push through and bulge out. The bulge may hurt or burn. A hernia can occur soon after birth or much later in life.

Hernias that occur in older adult males are common and can happen from pressure, like straining during bowel movements, heavy lifting, coughing, sneezing or obesity . This pressure forces part of the intestine through that weak spot in the groin or abdominal wall.

There is no proof that hernias are inherited, even if many family members have them.