Is Epididymitis Contagious?

Epididymitis can be caused by sexually transmitted disease

Doctor using digital tablet with patient
Getty Images/Ariel Skelley

Epididymitis is an infection and inflammation of the tube that connects the testicle with the vas deferens. This tube is called the epididymis. It is most common in men from ages 19 to 35, and is often caused by the spread of bacterial infections such as gonorrhea or chlamydia.

Here are some frequently asked questions about epididymitis and their answers.

I have heard epididymitis can be a sexually transmitted disease. Is that so?
The condition of epididymitis itself is not sexually transmitted, but the bacterial infections that can cause the condition are often sexually transmitted.

In sexually active men under the age of 35, gonorrhea or chlamydia are the most common bacterial infections that are sexually transmitted that can cause epididymitis. Urethritis (an infection of the urethra) may also be present, though you may not experience any obvious symptoms.

What else causes epididymitis?
Epididymitis can also be caused by urinary tract infections, infections following urinary-tract surgery, or prostatitis that spreads to the testicles.

What are the signs and symptoms of epididymitis?
Fever with swelling, tenderness and severe pain in the testicles, usually accompanied by a discharge from the end of the penis. Should you be affected, your doctor will send samples of any discharge and/or a sample of urine (preferably collected first thing in the morning, called the first void sample) for culture and sensitivity.

Your doctor will also collect blood for analysis. The results give your doctor the cause of the infection and the name of the antibiotic that will, in most cases, clear the infection.

What is the treatment?
Prompt treatment is important to minimize discomfort, and to avoid long term damage and transmission to others where the cause is a sexually transmitted organism. Antibiotics should clear up the problem.

Symptoms should improve within three days; if they do not then your doctor may review your medication.

Treatment will begin before the results of your urine, blood and swab test to minimize complications. Medication may need to be changed if the results show other antibiotics would be more effective.

It's painful—is there anything else I can do?
To help with the pain, you should rest in bed and take warm tub soaks. Pain medication will also be important. It should help you to feel more comfortable and help reduce your temperature. Hospitalization is only required if the doctor is unsure of the cause and requires further tests and observation, or if the infection is very severe.

Can I prevent it?
You may avoid epididymitis by seeking treatment for urethritis (urinary tract infection), bladder or prostate infections. Seek treatment quickly if you develop symptoms such as a burning sensation when you urinate and a yellow green discharge. Getting treatment early will aid in preventing spread of the infection to the testicles. Symptoms include a burning sensation when you urinate and a yellow green discharge.

Should I tell my sex partner?
If the cause of your epididymitis is gonorrhea or chlamydia you must inform your partner so that they can seek treatment. If you have had sexual contact within 60 days prior to the development of symptoms, then you will probably have passed the infection on and you should alert your sexual partner(s). You should cease sexual intercourse until the infection is cured.

Are there any long term effects of epididymitis?
Yes, if the condition is left untreated. Without prompt treatment, the epididymitis infection can damage the testicles and result in infertility and chronic pain.

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