A varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of veins in the scrotum, the
sack of skin that holds the testicles. A varicocele is similar to a
varicose vein that can appear in the leg. A varicocele usually occurs
on the left side. However, it may occur on the right or on both sides.
Approximately 15 percent of men in the United States will experience a
Varicocele and infertility
Varicocele is a common cause of low sperm production and low sperm
quality, which may cause infertility. Approximately 40 percent of men
who have had difficulty conceiving will have a varicocele. Most
varicoceles are easy to diagnose and do not need treatment. If it
causes any symptoms, doctors can often repair it surgically.
How do varicoceles affect the testicle?
Researchers are trying to determine how varicoceles damage the
testicles. The testicles hang below the body because normal testicular
function requires temperatures slightly cooler than the rest of the
body. Normal testicular blood flow helps regulate this temperature difference.
Doctors believe that the varicocele impairs the testicle’s ability
to regulate the temperature. The elevated temperature may disrupt
normal testicular function.
Symptoms of varicocele
Many times, varicoceles don’t cause any symptoms. Some men may
experience discomfort that they often describe it as a dull ache or
heaviness. Other symptoms include pain and infertility. Learn more
Treatment for varicocele
The main treatment options for varicocele are:
Surgery: A urologic surgeon ties off the abnormal veins.
Radiologic therapy: Physicians use a catheter to block the
blood flow to the veins.
An area of active male reproductive health research involves
determining the exact mechanisms of varicocele-induced testicular
damage. We know that the testicles hang below the body because normal
testicular function requires temperatures slightly cooler than the
rest of the body. Normal testicular blood flow helps regulate this
temperature difference. It is believed that the abnormally large veins
(varicoceles) impair normal temperature regulation and elevate scrotal
temperatures enough to disrupt testicular function. Other theories
that also have supporting evidence suggest that oxidative damage,
accumulation of toxins, and elevated pressures may also contribute to