I'm A Doctor – This Is The Surprising Truth About 'Blue Balls'

Yup, it really is a thing.
Elke Meitzel via Getty Images

You may have heard the term ‘blue balls’ before, but did you know that it is an actual medical condition and not just something that men say when they haven’t gotten lucky in a while?

Whilst it may just be a slang term that would be more at home on Urban Dictionary, it is the most recognisable name for a genuine medical condition.

Surprised? We don’t blame ya. Let us shed some light on the condition that is known as blue balls so you can learn what it actually is, what actually causes it, and how you can best treat it if you are suffering from it.

What are blue balls?

Blue balls is a slang name for a condition that can affect people with male reproductive organs. Blue balls, simply put, is the feeling of your testicles hurting or being uncomfortable and is commonly associated with prolonged sexual arousal without ejaculation, although this is not the only reason you can experience blue balls.

Is blue balls the same as epididymal hypertension (EH)?

Blue balls’ is simply slang for a genuine medical condition known as epididymal hypertension or EH for short. EH is a condition that causes the epididymis, the small tube that is located at the back of the testicles, to become swollen or inflamed. This can be due to many different causes including infections, injuries, or prolonged sexual arousal without ejaculation, which can lead to a blockage in the tube.

How do you pronounce epididymal hypertension (EH)?

Epididymal hypertension can be hard to say, which could be why a lot of people simply use the term blue balls. It is pronounced - eppy-diddy-mull hype-er-ten–shun.

Why does ‘blue balls’ occur?

There can be a few reasons why blue balls occur. Perhaps the most common reason is due to prolonged sexual arousal that does not lead to the release of ejaculation. This is what blue balls have become synonymous with. Whilst it may seem like something that is not an actual condition, it is very much a real thing.

When a person with a penis becomes sexually aroused there will be an increase in blood flow to the penis and testicles. This increase in blood flow leads to the penis becoming erect, as well as swelling in the testicles. When someone ejaculates there is, in theory, no reason for an erection to stay, and the blood in the penis and testicles will drain away. However, if someone has prolonged sexual arousal without ejaculation then the blood in their penis and testicles will not drain. This will lead to a build-up in pressure, and subsequently pain.

There is no set frequency that a man will need to ejaculate to avoid blue balls. The number of times a person ejaculates will vary depending on age, relationship status, and other factors including how often he has intercourse or how often he masturbates. Often, those aged between 25-29 will ejaculate the most, with rates reducing after the age of 30 and onwards.

Some sexual activities can lead to a heightened risk of blue balls. Kinks such as edging, which is when someone is brought to the brink of ejaculation only to be denied, are an increasingly popular practice. By doing this, they will have heightened levels of sexual arousal and prolonged ejaculation, which can be factors that cause blue balls, although, some may actually enjoy the sensation. Prolonging ejaculation can also cause other problems including premature ejaculation as even the slightest sensation could lead to orgasm.

Is blue balls harmful?

Blue balls is not considered to be a serious medical condition and, generally, the discomfort or pain will subside within a few hours. However, if you find that the pain you are feeling is continuous and does not go away after a few hours then you may wish to consider visiting your doctor. Testicular pain is a symptom of some more serious conditions and is not something to be taken lightly. If your pain persists, you must visit a doctor.

What are the main symptoms of blue balls?

The main symptoms of blue balls that you can keep an eye on include:

  • Mild pain
  • Discomfort in the genitals
  • A ‘heavy’ feeling in the testicles
  • Changes to the size of the scrotum
  • A very slight blue tinge to the testicles

If you begin to feel pain or discomfort in your testicles then you may become concerned as this could be a sign of other conditions aside from blue balls.

These symptoms can also be symptoms of other medical conditions relating to the testicles so you must note if they last longer than a few hours.

Are there other conditions that can cause similar symptoms to blue balls?

As mentioned, other conditions can have similar symptoms to blue balls. Testicular conditions can be serious, so you should be vigilant if you begin to feel any of the symptoms mentioned above. Here are some conditions that have similar symptoms to blue balls.

  • STIs
    Pain or swelling in the testicles can be a symptom of STIs including chlamydia or gonorrhoea. If your pain is persistent or more severe then it could be a sign of an STI.
  • Kidney stones
    Sustained, serious pain in the testicles or groin can be a sign of kidney stones.
  • Testicular torsion
    Testicular torsion is a condition in which the testicle twists around the spermatic cord which will cut off blood flow to the testicle. The main symptom of this is sudden and severe pain in the testicles. This will be much more severe than the pain you would feel with blue balls.

How can blue balls be treated?

If you feel that you are suffering from blue balls the best treatment is to simply wait and see if the symptoms subside on their own. Alternatively, you can try to apply ice or a hot compress to the area to reduce swelling. The quickest way to relieve blue balls is to ejaculate, which is perhaps the nicest treatment for a medical condition you can find.