A varicocele, in medical terms it would be referred to as an abnormal dilatation of the testicular veins. It is akin to having a varicose vein on the testicles. Just the same as some individuals have on their legs. These veins are dilated because blood is unable to drain properly from them and the veins allow extra blood to pool in the scrotum which has a detrimental effect on sperm production. It is usually painless although some people report discomfort.
A small percentage of people will feel a ‘dragging’ feeling from their Varicocele. Sizes of Varicoceles vary, some are very large and can be visibly seen, and some can only be felt and not seen.
Varicocele- Man’s FertilityVaricoceles seem to disappear as you lie down as the blood from the veins drains away, when you stand gravity will cause the blood to pool again and the Varicocele will reappear. This poses more of a problem if a Varicocele appears in a man over the age of 40 as this can denote a possible blockage of a larger vein in the abdomen or an indication of a tumour of the kidney that has developed which is pressing on veins. However without evaluation by a doctor it is important not to jump to conclusions.
It is by far the most common (and easily correctable) abnormality that is believed to occur with male infertility, 1 in 7 men have one and they usually appear between the ages of 15 and 25. It can be corrected by minor out-patient surgery although this is only carried out if causing significant discomfort or if the testis is not growing properly in the case of a teenager with a Varicocele.
Surgery involves tying off the veins that are enlarged, alternatively, a special substance injected into the veins to block them. This type of surgery is very successful although it is not always a permanent solution as some men will develop new Varicocele months or sometimes years later.
This is due to the veins left behind to take the blood from the testes may enlarge themselves or dilate with the extra blood they are now carrying. Surgery can be carried out in the same way if it re-occurs.
Studies show that there is a higher rate of infertility in men with a Varicocele compared to those without a Variocele. The pooled blood is believed to create a slighter higher temperature in the scrotum than what is normal so this may reduce the number and quality of sperm made by the testes which can decrease your fertility. Even one Varicocele on one side can cause both testes to be warmed by the increased level of blood pooled in the enlarged veins.
Up to 40% of infertile men have a Varicocele and even when found in young men, its presence is said to cause damage over time and that fertility could dwindle over time.
On the contrary, at least 15% of healthy fertile men have a Varicocele so it is important to note that it does not necessarily mean having a Varicocele will have any effect on a man’s fertility nor does it means that you are or will become infertile, it is just a possibility. After treatment on a Varicocele, your fertility may improve it may not but there are many infertility options to consider which may or may not be linked so if you find yourself with a Varicocele do not be alarmed.