Please Stop Believing These Testicle Inaccuracies
The internet is rife with misinformation on an array of health topics, and men's sexual health is no exception. Reddit threads and message boards—as well as companies hawking products—routinely make unsubstantiated claims, including a number of testicle inaccuracies.
Unfortunately, some men forgo seeing a doctor and instead take a DIY approach, spending their hard-earned money on useless products in hopes of improving their sexual health.
The two primary functions of the testicles are to produce sperm and secrete hormones, namely testosterone, and much of the misinformation surrounding these egg-shaped organs has to do with those two functions. Three experienced urologists weighed in on common testicular myths.
Sperm buildup causes testicular pain
The buildup of sperm does not cause testicular pain, according to Daniel Lee, M.D., an assistant professor of urologic oncology in the surgery department at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
"That's a common misconception," Lee explained. "By and large, it's not related to anything. I would not be worried about anything."
That said, semen retention doesn't hold much promise for men. The internet is home to much discussion about the practice—when a man intentionally avoids ejaculation—having benefits, such as boosting testosterone, improving sperm quality and increasing mental focus.
Yes, it's an ancient practice that some men swear by, but the hard science doesn't support semen retention.
Semen retention has never been shown to improve testicular function, for either sperm count or testosterone, explained T. Mike Hsieh, M.D., a urologist and the director of the Men's Health Center at the University of California San Diego.
"If that were true, doing a vasectomy to block sperm from coming out, guys would be like Superman, and we're not going to make men become Superman," he said.
The goal for men, according to Hsieh, should be to figure out what's normal and healthy for them regarding sexual frequency.
"I see a kid that masturbates five times a day; that's probably a little too much," he said. "But the guy that's been withholding for five months, that's probably also not good. Most people are probably somewhere in between. When you overdo it, it's probably not good for you."
Big balls make more testosterone
The size of the testicles is not related to the amount of testosterone produced, according to Lee.
"It's just an anatomic part," he explained. "How much testosterone you make sometimes actually doesn't matter. It's more how much testosterone receptors you have, or how you process the testosterone, that's more important."
Smaller testicles make the same amount of testosterone as larger ones.
"Just because somebody has big testicles does not mean that they have higher testosterone," Lee said, adding that having high testosterone does not mean you will have a bigger penis, either. "Those things are not necessarily related to each other."
While there is no known connection to testosterone, testicle size does correlate to sperm production, however.
The overwhelming majority of the volume of testicles are germ cells, which are the cells that make sperm, according to Thomas Masterson, M.D., an assistant professor of urology at the Desai Sethi Urology Institute at the University of Miami.
"When we are evaluating people for fertility, if they have abnormal semen parameters, smaller testicles and abnormal sperm counts kind of go hand in hand," Masterson said. "And it's because the majority of the testicle is germ cells."
This is why when men go on testosterone replacement therapy, their testicles shrink.
"The reason they shrink is not because the testicles have not stopped making testosterone, but it's actually shut down sperm production," Masterson explained. "You can have tiny testicles and normal testosterone levels. It's just very unlikely that you're going to have tiny testicles and good sperm counts."
Icing my balls will increase testosterone
This inaccuracy is interesting, Masterson explained. While there's no conclusive evidence that icing the testicles will boost testosterone and sperm counts, there is some sense to it because the scrotum is a muscular sac that regulates the temperature of the testicles.
"We know that if it's too hot, that's bad for sperm production," Masterson said. "People who are going chronically to saunas or hot tubs are likely to have lower sperm counts."
Putting ice on your testicles will not have any impact on your testosterone production, though, according to Lee.
"Basically, everything that people do or try to do is not going to improve your testosterone," he said. "What will improve your testosterone is exercise, sleep and a healthy diet. It's really just the old-fashioned things. Keeping to those core tenets."