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During normal fetal development, a boy's testicles form in his abdomen alongside the kidneys. By the time the baby’s born, his testicles have moved down into his scrotum (the sack of skin beneath the penis). If one or both don’t “drop,” he has a condition called undescended testicles.
Undescended testicles can increase the risk of infertility. Normally, when the testicles are in the scrotum, they’re about three to five degrees cooler than they would be if they remained inside the body's abdominal cavity. The warmer temperatures inside the body may impair the development of the testicles and may affect the production of healthy sperm when the boy is older.
Boys born with undescended testicles are also slightly more prone to testicular cancer, even after corrective surgery. The advantage of surgery, however, is that it moves the testes into a place that allows for routine self-examination, which could lead to early detection of any abnormalities later in life.
In a baby affected by undescended testicles, one or both of his testicles either appear to be missing or cannot be felt in the scrotum.
If both testicles are undescended, the scrotum will look unusually small and flat. If only one testicle is affected, the scrotum may look lopsided.
If your baby's testicle appears to be “sometimes there and sometimes not,” we call that testicle retractile. It’s a normal condition that requires no treatment.
Experts have yet to identify any single cause of undescended testicles. The following factors may interfere with the normal descent and development of the testicles:
We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”