Hypospadias: Causes, Effects and Treatment

Hypospadias Overview

Hypospadias is a birth defect of the urethra that largely occurs in males and sometimes in females too. The condition involves the ‘urethra’ being abnormally placed somewhere below the tip of the penis. Instead of opening at the very top of the glands of the penis. A urethra affected by hypospadias, can open anywhere along the urethra groove, that runs from the tip of the penis, and along the underside of the penis shaft – right down to the scrotum or perineum.

Hypospadias can be a very embarrassing condition for sexually active males. The embarrassing nature of the condition, often results in males leaving the condition unchecked, often too embarrassed to seek medical attention. However, It is increasingly rare for males of sexual maturity, to suffer from the condition, as most surgical intervention is carried out during infancy. A similar and rated condition can also develop in females, but it is a considerably rarer occurrence.

What Causes Hypospadias?

Unfortunately, the causes of hypospadias are largely unknown. It is thought that hormone replacement therapy during pregnancy may increase the likelihood of an unborn child developing hypospadias in the womb. However, this has yet to be proved conclusively, and is currently only a theoretical assumption.

It also thought, again theoretically, that IVF treatment may also increase the risk of child being born with hypospadias. The connection between IVF treatment and hypospadias, may be due to an increased exposure of the mother to progesterone, a natural hormone that the body emits during pregnancy, or to a widely used synthetic version of the same hormone, often administered during IVF treatment.

Can Hypospadias Be Treated?

Yes, there are a number of successful treatment methods available.

First degree hypospadias is primarily thought of as a cosmetic defect, which rarely affects the function of the penis, beyond the flow and direction of the urinary stream.

Second and third degree hypospadias are more serious, and can cause severe problems further down the line, if left untreated. First and second degree hypospadias can usually be treated during the same surgical procedure. The procedure is usually performed in the first year of birth, by a specialised plastic suregon, or paediatric urologist.

Surgical intervention of the most severe forms of hypospadias (medically referred to as ‘third degree hypospadias’) are more tricky to treat. The most severe forms of hypospadias, may require multiple surgical procedures, with varying levels of success. Sometimes they may even result in unwanted complications, such as; inability to achieve erection, scarring and formation of strictures on the penis.

How Common is Hypospadias?

Hypospadias is the second most common birth defect that affects the male reproductive organ (after cryptorchidism). Worldwide figures vary, but it is thought to affect ‘1 in 125’ new born males – worldwide.

One thing is for certain, incidents of the condition appear to be on the increase… In the United States alone, reports of hypospadias have increased from ‘1 in 250’ new born males in the 1970’s, to ‘1 in 125’ in the late 1990’s.

Worldwide it’s more difficult to calculate the prevalence and increase of the condition, due to many conflicting results, studies and inaccurately published statistics. However, the common held belief amongst medical professionals in the west, is that the condition is more likely to be on the increase, rather than the decrease.

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