A varicocele is an abnormal enlargement of veins in the scrotum which
drain the testicle. For anatomic reasons, it most commonly occurs on
the left side but may occur on the right or on both sides. It is
present in up to 15 percent of the entire male population in the US.
However, it is more common in men with difficulty conceiving, in whom
up to 40 percent will have a varicocele.
How do varicoceles hurt the testicle?
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