Hydroceles predominantly occur in males and are rare in females. They are common in male infants and children and in many cases are associated with an indirect inguinal hernia. Approximately 1% to 3% of full-term infants have a hydrocele or hernia. Hydroceles are more prevalent in premature infants and in infants whose testes descend relatively late. Autopsy findings suggest patent processus vaginalis is present in 80% to 94% of infants and 15% to 30% of adults. In the presence of a patent processus vaginalis, the incidence of a contralateral patent processus vaginalis has been found to be 15% to 22%. In the majority of cases, the processus vaginalis closes within the first year of life and so the incidence of hydrocele decreases. Intrauterine exposure to polybrominated biphenyl, a brominated flame retardant and endocrine disruptor, has been found to increase the risk of hydrocele/hernia.
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