What actually causes blue balls and how to relieve the pain, according to men's health specialists

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What actually causes blue balls and how to relieve the pain, according to men's health specialists
Blue balls don't actually turn your balls blue.Vstock/Getty Images
  • Blue balls is a condition that causes aching in testicles when you're turned on but don't orgasm.
  • The symptoms of blue balls include heaviness, dull pain, and swelling.
  • Blue balls don't actually turn your balls blue — and it usually isn't dangerous either.

If you've ever gotten super turned on for a prolonged period of time but weren't able to have an orgasm, you may have experienced some mild pain and discomfort in your testicles, colloquially referred to as blue balls. The phenomenon even has its own medical term: epididymal hypertension.

The discomfort you feel from blue balls is certainly real, but there are misconceptions about the condition.

What are blue balls?

If you're experiencing blue balls, your symptoms will likely be brief and mild, says Justin Dubin, MD, andrology fellow specializing in male infertility and sexual medicine at Northwestern Medicine.

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Dubin says that blue balls may cause the following discomforting sensations in the testicles:

  • Heaviness
  • Aching
  • Dull pain
  • Swelling

Aside from these physical sensations, you may also experience anxiety, irritability, and of course, the need to ejaculate, says Stanton Honig, MD, director of Men's Health at Yale Medicine Urology.

The cause of blue balls comes down to blood flow. When you're aroused, blood flows into your penis, giving you an erection. While it may not be as obvious, there's also increased blood flow to the testicles which can cause them to increase in size as well.

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Once you have an orgasm, the blood leaves your penis and testicles and they return to normal — but if you have an erection for a long time without orgasm, the blood sticks around in your genitals, causing the testicles to swell, says Dubin.

Myths about blue balls

Although blue balls can be painful, it's not a cause for concern. "Blue balls do not turn men's balls a blue color. This is a myth. It is not a dangerous situation either," says Honig.

Plus, any drastic rumors you may have heard — like that blue balls can make your balls fall off or cause cancer — are not true, Dubin says.

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However, if you have an erection that lasts longer than four hours, you should seek emergency care immediately.

How to get rid of blue balls

Thankfully, getting rid of blue balls is simple: Have an orgasm. This will cause the unpleasant build-up of blood to leave your genitals, Dubin says.

Plus orgasming, either alone through masturbation or with a consenting partner, is a pleasurable way to relieve yourself.

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And partners make note: Orgasm through masturbation is just as effective as sex with a partner. "Partners of men who are complaining of blue balls should not feel compelled to help out if they don't want to," says Dubin.

If orgasming isn't an option, you can also try to reduce your arousal. Dubin says some ways to do this are:

  • Taking a cold shower
  • Exercising
  • Distracting yourself, such as by reading a book

Insider's takeaway

Blue balls can be uncomfortable and frustrating, but it's not a cause for medical concern unless your erection lasts more than four hours.

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Your discomfort should go away after you ejaculate or lose your arousal.

However, Dubin says that if you have persistent and severe pain in your testicles that is lingering, it could be something other than blue balls, and you should see your doctor, to be safe.

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