Notice: Users may be experiencing issues with displaying some pages on stanfordhealthcare.org. We are working closely with our technical teams to resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Thank you for your patience.
Many varicoceles are asymptomatic and will cause no problems for a man. However, they may cause scrotal or testicular discomfort classically described as heaviness or a dull ache. Varicoceles may also impair normal testicular growth and can impair sperm and testosterone production.
If symptoms are present, they may include:
Pain – aching pain when an individual has been standing or sitting for long periods of time and pressure builds up on the affected veins. Typically, painful varicoceles are prominent in size.
Fertility problems – There is an association between varicoceles and infertility. The incidence of varicocele increases to 30 percent in infertile couples. Decreased sperm count, decreased motility of sperm, and an increase in the number of deformed sperm are related to varicoceles. Some experts believe that blocked and enlarged veins around the testes, called varicoceles, cause infertility by raising the temperature in the scrotum and decreasing sperm production.
Testicular atrophy – Shrinking of the testicles is another sign of varicoceles. Often, once the testicle is repaired it will return to normal size.
Diagnosis is fairly simple through either physical or diagnostic examination.
Typical on left side of scrotum
Visual physical exam - scrotum looks like a "bag of worms"
Testicle can shrink in size/atrophy
When varicoceles are not clearly present, the abnormal blood flow can often be detected with a noninvasive imaging exam called color flow ultrasound or through a venogram - an X-ray in which a special dye is injected into the veins to "highlight" blood vessel abnormalities