What Are Blue Balls? Here’s What the Science Says

We’ve watched enough teen movies to know the phrase “blue balls”. Where does this vivid and catchy phrase come from, and what are blue balls?

The term ‘blue balls’ is frequently used as a euphemism for any kind of unfulfilled sexual desire, and has sometimes been unfairly used to pressure someone into sex they don’t want to have or to accuse someone of being a tease (“She gave me blue balls!”).

These are obviously incorrect uses of the term, but is there any truth behind the physical claim? Are blue balls real? Here are answers to your most-asked questions about this infamous phenomenon, including why they happen and how to get rid of blue balls all on your own.

Two blue balls on blue background

What are blue balls?

What are blue balls and are blue balls real? Yes, the condition is real. The blue part? Not so much.

What people call blue balls is slang for a real physical condition called Epididymal Hypertension. It affects the testicles and is characterized by mild pain and occasionally, though rarely, a faint blue coloring.

Blue balls can happen to any penis owner, regardless of size or sexual prowess. However, it is more common among adolescents.

Is it serious?

In most cases, blue balls aren’t serious and will go away on their own or with ejaculation (though it’s important to note that this should never be used to pressure a partner into sex).

Man holding crotch in painful pose

However, if they last a long time, don’t fade with ejaculation, or are accompanied by other symptoms like serious pain, nausea, or discoloration, go to the doctor.

What do blue balls feel like?

Symptoms of blue balls include mild pain, discomfort, an achy feeling, or a full sensation in or around the testicles. It can sometimes be accompanied by a sharp or duller pain extending from the groin to the lower abdomen.

Unsurprisingly, these physical symptoms may also come with intense arousal or desire to ejaculate and feelings of irritability or anxiety.

What do blue balls look like?

What are blue balls? First of all, they aren’t blue.

Some evidence suggests epididymal hypertension can cause testicles to take on a faint blue-ish hue due to oxygen being absorbed by genital tissue. However, they won’t and shouldn’t actually be blue.

Cucumber and tomatoes penis concept

However, there’s a chance your scrotum will look swollen.

What causes blue balls?

Epididymal hypertension is, as suspected, caused by prolonged sexual arousal or attraction without sexual release. What happens exactly?

Arousal causes blood to flow to the genital area, including the testicles. This expansion of blood vessels is what makes a penis erect and testicles swell before everything rests back to normal size post-orgasm.

If all this blood and tension is not released with ejaculation, fluids can get trapped in the epididymis (the tube that sits at the back of each testicle and connects them to the vas deferens, another part of the reproductive system), leading it to expand and the testicles become uncomfortable and swollen. In other words: blue balls.

You’re more likely to experience epididymal hypertension if you’re doing something like edging or practicing male chastity.

Male crotch with two white balls with drawn sad faces

How long do blue balls last?

Blue balls don’t have to last longer than a few minutes. They should rarely last longer than a few hours, as they usually clear up on their own or are quickly relieved by their owner. If they last a long time, visit the doctor.

How to get rid of blue balls?

The quickest and most effective way to relieve blue balls is ejaculation. How to get rid of blue balls on your own? With your favorite pastime: masturbation!

There are other ways to relieve the discomfort of epididymal hypertension including ice packs or warm compresses, exercise to redirect the blood flow, or simple distraction.

Can women get blue balls?

Yes, women and people with vulvas can experience something equivalent to blue balls. What are “blue balls” for people with vulvas? It has a number of euphemistic names including pink pelvis, blue bean, blue vulva, and blue uterus.

For vulva owners, this condition affects the clitoris, which can become swollen and uncomfortable if blood has rushed there during sexual arousal and is not released during climax.

Smiling couple girl hugging guy from back

So, what’s the deal with this often joked-about phenomenon, and are blue balls real? While they aren’t technically blue, epididymal hypertension is something that can be experienced by anyone with a penis.

Fortunately, unlike other medical conditions, treating it tends to be on the fun side…