What are blue balls?

The expression ‘blue balls’ is a euphemism for male sexual frustration. If you’ve not had sex for some time or not ejaculated recently, you might complain you’ve got blue balls. But it’s not real, right? It’s just something people say. Here’s what you need to know.

Are blue balls real?

Are blue balls a real thing? Surely not. Well, you’d be forgiven if you thought blue balls was just an expression – the way people talk about it, it feels like a playground sexual myth. But (and this is a big but) that’s not the case. Blue balls is a medical condition properly referred to as epididymal hypertension. It’s caused by blood building up in your testicles when you’re aroused but not dissipating, causing your testicles to feel heavy and uncomfortable. Sometimes it can give your testicles a faint blue tint, hence the name.

What causes blue balls?

When you get aroused the flow of blood to your penis and testicles increases. As your penis fills with blood, it expands and stiffens, giving you an erection. When this happens your testicles also hold more blood than usual, making them grow and feel heavier. 

This excess blood usually flows back out of your penis and testicles after you’ve ejaculated or if your sexual arousal diminishes, making your erection subside and your testicles go back to normal. But sometimes the excess blood stays in your testicles, making them feel uncomfortable and painful. This is blue balls.

Blue balls are more likely to happen if you get aroused and your genitals are filled with blood but you don’t experience the release of ejaculation. It’s also more common if you’re easily stimulated or you delay your ejaculation for long periods (like with edging).

What are the symptoms of blue balls?

Men with blue balls can get different symptoms, but these are the most common:

  • An aching sensation in your testicles
  • Discomfort and pain in your testicles
  • A feeling of heaviness in your scrotum
  • Sometimes you can get a faint blue tint to your scrotum, which is caused by your testicles filling with blood (although the blood is red, your veins can make it look blue)

How to get rid of blue balls

There’s no official treatment that’s been verified by medical science for blue balls, but the anecdotal evidence suggests that ejaculating is the best way to get rid of it. Likely this sets in motion the processes that cause the excess blood to flow out of your penis and testicles, which fixes the issue. In some cases, blue balls can disappear without ejaculating. Some people also suggest applying a cold compress to your testicles, but the best bet is to ejaculate either from sex or from masturbating.

Blue balls myths

Because the condition is associated with a general euphemism for sexual frustration, there are a few myths and misunderstandings around blue balls. These are the most common:

Myth 1: Blue balls are dangerous.

There’s no evidence to suggest that blue balls are dangerous. Although it can cause discomfort and pain, the condition usually doesn’t last for long and can be easily remedied by ejaculating.

Myth 2: Blue balls can only be fixed by having sex.

Not true. You should be able to get rid of blue balls by ejaculating, meaning masturbation works just as well as sex – it might even be a quicker solution for most of us!

Myth 3: Blue balls makes your testicles turn blue.

Blue balls don’t make your testicles turn blue. In most instances there’s no color change, however in some cases testicles may take on a faint blueish tint caused by the blood inside them.

Myth 4: Only people with testicles can get blue balls.

Now, this is an interesting one. There have been reports of women getting a similar condition called blue vulva. Like blue balls it’s thought to happen when a woman becomes aroused and more blood flows into her clitoris and vulva, but then she doesn’t climax, causing feelings of heaviness and discomfort as the excess blood remains.

What else could cause pain in my testicles? When should I see a doctor?

Blue balls are usually short-lasting and go away after you ejaculate. If you have persistent pain or feelings of discomfort in your testicles, especially after climaxing, it’s probably not blue balls.

Other causes of discomfort could include inflammation caused by an infection, testicular torsion (where a testicle rotates and causes pain and swelling), testicular cancer, or just a knock that causes bruising. If you have any unusual and persistent feelings in your testicles, play it safe and get yourself to your doctor to have your symptoms checked out.