Try to Avoid the Causes and Risk Factors for Epididymitis
Epididy-what? That's likely the reaction you would get from a roomful of men if you told them you had tips for how to avoid epididymitis. Most of them probably would be unaware they have an epididymis, which is the structure on the back of the testicles that gets inflamed and causes the ailment.
Epididymitis is a painful condition that can often be easily avoided by practicing certain behaviors that reduce your risk. Some causes and risk factors of epididymitis, such as having an uncircumcised penis, may be beyond your control. However, knowing more about factors that contribute to epididymitis can help keep your penis safe and healthy—and you in a lot less pain.
Check out our collection of tips about how to avoid and reduce your risk for epididymitis.
Practice safe sex
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly gonorrhea and chlamydia, are the most common causes of epididymitis. The most effective ways to avoid an STI (other than abstinence) include reducing your number of sex partners and using barrier methods such as condoms.
Get screened regularly for STIs
It's possible to get an STI even if you practice safe sex. Factors that put you at risk for an STI include having a history of STIs and sharing needles during injection drug use. Excessive alcohol use can also be a factor if it leads to risky sexual behavior. Results from a 2010 study published in Annals of Internal Medicine showed that men who use erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs such as Viagra tend to have higher rates of STIs than men who do not use these medications, likely because of more frequent sexual encounters and less use of safe sex practices.
Ask your doctor how often you should get tested for STIs based on your sexual activity level and sexual orientation. For example, all sexually active gay and bisexual men should be tested at least once a year for syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Know how to prevent UTIs
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are the next most common cause of epididymitis after STIs. UTIs in men occur when E. coli bacterium enters the urinary tract via the urethra. The best ways to prevent a UTI include urinating as soon as you feel the urge (rather than holding it in), keeping your genital area clean and dry at all times and drinking plenty of water regularly to flush out toxins and bacteria from the urinary tract.
Stay on top of vaccinations
Mumps and tuberculosis are other infections that can cause epididymitis. Many people in the United States receive the mumps vaccine as a child, but if you missed out, it's never too late to get the one dose needed to reduce your risk. Bacille Calmette-Guérin is the vaccine for tuberculosis, though this particular vaccine is not widely used in the U.S. and is usually given only to healthcare workers.
Wear protective athletic gear
Trauma to the testicles, such as an injury during contact sports, can cause epididymitis. Wear protective athletic gear such as jockstraps or compression shorts at all times when engaging in intense physical activities and contact sports.
Treat an enlarged prostate
Also known as benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), an enlarged prostate is an established risk factor for epididymitis. Men at high risk for an enlarged prostate tend to be overweight or obese and suffer from diabetes, heart disease and/or hormonal imbalances. However, the prostate gland also typically grows with age. If you have an enlarged prostate, seeking treatment for your condition may help you avoid epididymitis. Lifestyle changes, medications and minimally invasive surgery are the most common treatments for an enlarged prostate.
Consider switching from amiodarone
Amiodarone is a medication used to treat and prevent certain types of serious, life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm problems. Epididymitis, along with testicular dysfunction and impotence, is a rare but potential side effect of amiodarone, according to a 2014 study published in the Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal. If you are using amiodarone and meet other risk factors for epididymitis, consider asking your doctor about alternative treatments for abnormal heart rhythm.
Keep your immune system strong
A compromised immune system, whether induced by medications used to treat cancer or certain unhealthy lifestyle habits, can increase your risk for epididymitis. Boosting your immunity can often help reduce your risk for any illness and disease, including epididymitis. Wash your hands frequently, exercise regularly and eat lots of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods loaded with nutrients that naturally strengthen your immune system.
Ask your doctor for other tips and recommendations on how to avoid epididymitis, especially if you have a medical condition that puts you at risk or you have had a prostate biopsy or used a urinary catheter. Your healthcare team can work with you to maintain your testicular health based on your personal medical history.