A varicocele (which is pronounced VA-RI-KOH-SEAL) is defined as an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum (this is the loose sac of skin that holds the testicles). A varicocele is similar to a varicose vein that can be found in the legs.
Interestingly, varicoceles are more commonly seen in the left testicle than the right.
Most varicoceles develop and grow slowly over time and are relatively easy to diagnose. In most cases there is no need for any treatment.
This is often symptomless condition; however, some men may experience symptoms such as:
Pain that gets worse when you stand or exercise
Pain that gets worse as the day goes on
Pain that improves when you lay on your back
Over time as the varicocele grows, it can cause some complications including:
Shrinking of the testicle – the varicocele can lead to the affected testicle shrinking and softening. This reason for this is unknown, however it may be linked to a pool of blood in the testicle.
Infertility – the varicocele can cause the temperature of the testicle to increase which can affect the quality and volume of sperm that is produced - but not everyone with a varicocele will experience this.
Swelling of the testicle – the enlarged vein can lead to an enlarged testicle.
There seem to be no risk factors that will put a man at an increased chance of developing a varicocele.
In many cases, treatment is not necessary and many men with a varicocele will be able to have children. However, if the varicocele is known to be causing problems, then you may be offered surgery to seal off the affected vein and direct the blood flow through normal, healthy veins.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of the doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.