What is a Varicocele?
A varicocele is a vein in the scrotum that has become enlarged. This enlargement is similar to that found in people who suffer from varicose veins.
However, this condition is found in one out of every six males. It primarily affects men between the ages of 15 and 25. While some cases of varicocele are harmless, others can be associated with infertility. Specifically, it can be linked to lower sperm production and low sperm quality. In fact, close to 40 percent of men who have been diagnosed with infertility also suffer from a varicocele in one or both testicles. This condition can often be successfully remedied with surgery.
Doctors are not sure what causes varicocele in men. However, they suspect that it stems from a blockage or backing up of the valves in the spermatic cord. Further, they often suspect varicocele if a patient suffer from symptoms like:
- Sharp or dull pain in one (typically the left) or both testicles
- Swelling of one or both testicles
- Shrinkage of one or both testicles
Depending on the symptoms, doctors may use a couple of different methods to diagnose varicocele. They first may use a breathing technique that allows them to physically examine the testicles. While the patient is doing the breathing exercise, the doctor can examine the size of the testicle in question. If a physical examination is not successful, the doctor may use a scrotal ultrasound to determine the presence of a varicocele. The ultrasound allows the doctor to examine the soft tissue and veins in the testicles.
Treatment of Varicoceles
If a patient is found to have varicoceles, he may be first advised to wear snug underwear or a jock strap to ease the swelling and pain in the testicles. Additionally, he may be prescribed pain medications and anti-inflammatory medications that will help with the symptoms of this condition.
If the symptoms do not dissipate or the presence of the varicocele does not diminish, the patient may need to undergo surgery for it. Doctors who treat varicoceles use microscopic surgery to relieve this condition.
The use of microscopes during the surgery allow doctors to identify and treat the right veins in the testicles. After the vein is located, it is dissected and drained, thus disrupting its blood flow. The varicoceles will then disappear after the surgery.