The term “blue balls” is slang for epididymal hypertension, which is thought to occur when you get sexually aroused for an extended period of time but don’t have an orgasm or ejaculation. It’s not dangerous and it’s not a reason to pressure a partner into sexual activity. Anecdotal evidence suggests it’s fairly common but there’s almost no research available or much of a medical consensus on the condition.
Here’s what we know about blue balls and how to take treatment into your own hands.
What is blue balls?
Blue balls or epididymal hypertension refer to scrotal pain or a feeling of heaviness after sustained sexual arousal without orgasm and ejaculation. The symptoms of blue balls include mild pain, discomfort, aching, heaviness, and sometimes — as the name suggests — a faint bluish colour in your testes (also known as testicles).
What causes blue balls?
“When things are getting hot and heavy, the body channels blood into the penis and testicles,” Dr Rhys Young says. “The veins that would normally carry that blood away from the area restrict so that the blood stays there to create an erection.”
After ejaculation or when they’re no longer aroused, blood flows out of their penis and it returns to a flaccid state.
“However, if you are aroused for an extended period and don't get that release or drop in arousal, extra blood can stay around,” Dr Young says. “This can cause some pain and discomfort.”
How do you get rid of blue balls?
“The best way to get rid of the discomfort is to either ejaculate or distract yourself by engaging in non-arousing activities,” Dr Young says. “You don't need a partner to relieve blue balls, masturbation alone will be totally fine.”
Other causes of scrotal pain or discomfort
If you experience sudden, severe pain in your testicles seek immediate medical help. This could be a sign of testicular torsion. Testicular torsion happens when a testicle twists in the scrotum, cutting off the blood supply and causing swelling. Unless the condition is treated quickly, the testicle can die.
Other causes of pain in your scrotum and its contents include infections like epididymitis or injury. If you’re experiencing ongoing pain or discomfort in your testes or scrotum, chat to your doctor.