Varicocele Symptoms, Complications and Treatment
In simple words, a varicocele is the swelling or widening of veins in the scrotum that holds testicles or spermatic cord. In medical jargon, a varicocele is defined as the anatomic abnormality that affects the functioning of the veins inside the scrotum sac, thus impairing sperm production. Any abnormality of veins that disturbs their functioning in the testicles may result in varicocele symptoms. As a result, the condition affects sperm production and semen quality and may even cause shrinking of the testicles, resulting in decreased testicular function.
Though there aren’t any specific risk factors that could result in a varicocele, the condition is believed to be caused by the valves inside the veins in the scrotum that are not able to function properly and prevent the proper flow of blood in the organ. The resulting blood backup causes swelling, widening, and dilation of the veins. The condition may cause damage to testicles and worsened fertility issues in the affected men. Commonly found in men aged 15-25 years, varicoceles tend to develop slowly and form during puberty.
In older men, the sudden appearance of a varicocele could be the result of a tumor in the kidneys, which may prevent blood flow to a vein. The diagnosis may reveal swelling of veins on the left side. This may be due to the position of the left testicular vein. It is commonly seen that a varicocele in one testicle can easily impact the sperm production in both testicles. In young men, scrotal varicocele is the leading cause of poor sperm production and semen quality.
There aren’t too many signs or symptoms of a varicocele. Scrotal swelling, painless lump in the testicles, bulge in the scrotum, and inflamed, twisted veins in the scrotum are some of the common symptoms. The condition may cause pain, which may
- Gradually worsen during the day
- Be sharp sometimes or in the form of dull discomfort
- Not be felt when you lie on your back but may exaggerate in a standing position
- Increase when you indulge in any stressful physical activity over long periods
Varicoceles may gradually expand and become more noticeable.
Varicoceles are easy to diagnose and surgically correct. In young men, varicoceles can impair sperm production and quality, affecting fertility in some cases. The condition can be improved with treatment.
A jock strap, which provides scrotal support, is often used to relieve pain symptoms in men suffering varicocele. Even snug underwear can be used for pain or discomfort. However, if pain persists, it is best advised to consult your doctor for further treatment.
Varicocelectomy is the surgical procedure used to correct a varicocele. The procedure involves making an incision in the lower abdomen to tie off veins that aren’t functioning properly. This will allow blood to flow into normal veins. Doctors advise keeping an ice pack on the surgery site to reduce swelling for 24 hours.
Varicocele embolization can be an alternative to surgery. This non-surgical procedure involves insertion of a small hollow tube into a vein in the groin, from where the tube is inserted into the varicocele under the guidance of X-rays. The tiny coil that passes through the tube prevents blood flow to the affected veins. As a result, the blood flows to normal veins. An ice pack may be used after a few hours of the procedure to reduce swelling in the area.