Varicocele

What Is Varicocele?

Varicocele is a medical condition in which there is enlargement of veins in the skin within which the scrotum lies. This condition is similar to another condition called varicose veins which occurs in the legs.

Varicocele Side Effects: Varicocele is the main cause for an individual having low sperm count resulting in infertility, although not all forms of Varicocele affect the sperm count. Varicocele may also cause the testicles to get shrunken. Varicocele tends to develop with passage of time and does not develop suddenly. This condition is quite easily diagnosed and does not require any specific treatment. There are some cases of Varicocele in which some symptoms are observed requiring surgical treatment for Varicocele.

What Is Varicocele

What Are The Causes Of Varicocele?

To understand how Varicocele is caused, one should first understand the anatomy. The function of the spermatic cord is to carry blood to and from the testicles. The exact etiology of Varicocele is not clear but researchers are of the opinion that Varicocele tends to form when the valves present in the veins of the spermatic cord do not function properly and hinder the smooth flow of blood to and from the testicle. This causes the vein to dilate resulting in damage to the testicles as well as causing negative impact on the fertility of the individual. This condition usually is seen at the time of puberty.

What Are The Risk Factors For Varicocele?

There are no specific risk factors for development of Varicocele but researchers are of the opinion that people who are obese might be at a decreased risk for developing this condition whereas people who are tall are at an increased risk.

What Are The Symptoms Of Varicocele?

Varicocele is usually asymptomatic but in some cases it does produce symptoms. The symptom of Varicocele may be mild to moderate discomfort in the scrotal area which increases with standing for long periods and worsens as the day goes on. This discomfort is relieved when lying on the back. With passage of time, Varicocele may enlarge and can be visibly observed. When checking the quality of the sperms, the affected individual will have a sperm of a lower quality.

How Is Varicocele Diagnosed?

In order to diagnose Varicocele, the treating physician will first conduct a detailed physical examination to look for presence of some mass above the testicle. If the Varicocele is large then the treating physician will be able to palpate. In case if an individual has a small Varicocele, then the physician may perform a Valsalva maneuver to feel the Varicocele.

In case the physical examination does not confirm the diagnosis, the physician may then recommend a scrotal ultrasound to look for the inflow and outflow of blood to and from the testicles and see if there is any change. In some cases imaging studies may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis of Varicocele.

What Are Treatments For Varicocele?

In most cases, a specific treatment for Varicocele is not required. However, if an individual experiences Varicocele pain and discomfort as well as lower sperm quality then corrective treatment may be required. This treatment is done in the form of corrective surgery for Varicocele. The aim of Varicocele surgery is to block off the affected vein and bypass the blood through the normal veins to the testicles so that regular blood flow is restored. This procedure more or less improves the quality of the sperm and increases the sperm count.

It has been noted that, individuals with Varicocele, despite having low sperm count are able to father children later on in their life. Some of the indications which point towards a corrective surgery for Varicocele are progressive testicular atrophy, pain in the testicles, low sperm count on semen analysis. Corrective surgery for Varicocele usually does not have any complications but in some cases it may cause:

  • Hydrocele
  • Varicocele recurrence
  • Testicular atrophy
  • Infections
  • Damage to a nerve or artery

Some Of The Surgical Procedures Done To Repair Varicocele Are:

Open Surgery For Varicocele: This treatment is done as an outpatient utilizing local anesthesia. The surgeon enters the affected vein through the groin or by making an incision to the abdomen. Due to significant advances in medical sciences and the techniques in surgical repairs postoperative complications are minimal. One such advancement is the use of a microscope during surgery so that the surgeon is able to have a better look at the affected area at the time of surgery for better postoperative results. As for the recovery period following open surgery for varicocele, usually postprocedure, the individual will take about two days to return back to normal daily activities but will have to wait for at least a couple of weeks before returning back to strenuous activities. The individual may have some degree of Varicocele pain postprocedure for which he will be given pain medications. Once the course of prescribed medications is over the physician will advice to continue medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen for some more time till the Varicoclele pain completely resolves. The physician will recommend not to indulge in sexual activity for some time till the wound heals and the blood flow to the testicle is completely restored.

Laparoscopic Surgery For Varicocele: This form of surgery is done by making a small incision in the abdomen and passing an instrument through incision to look at the Varicocele and to repair it. This procedure is done under general anesthesia.

Percutaneous Embolization For Varicocele: This procedure is also done on an outpatient basis using general anesthesia. In Varicocele Embolization, the radiologist inserts a tube into a vein in the groin through which instruments are passed and the enlarged veins are visualized. Once the affected veins are identified, the physician will release a medication which causes scarring and thus creating blockage in the testicular veins which has caused impaired blood flow and thus corrects the Varicocele.

Varicocele Pain Relief Measures

If an individual has Varicocele which is very mild and causes minimal discomfort and does not affect the fertility of the individual then the individual can try the following:

  • Use over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen for Varicocele pain relief. 
  • Wear a supporter for pressure release from the scrotal areas

Home Remedies For Varicocele

Some of the home remedies one can practice for Varicocele treatment are as follows:

  • An individual can make use of things like alstonia, bilberry, Butcher's Broom, horse chestnut, or psyllium which have shown to be helpful for people with Varicocele. 
  • Another way to treat varicocele is to plan a balanced diet. Some of the foods that need to be avoided are margarine, junk food like burgers or pizzas, animal fats, processed foods, caffeine, excessive oily foods, fast foods. It is recommended that the affected individual have foods rich in whole grains, fish oil, fish, flaxseed oil, eggs, milk, fruits and vegetables. High fiber food is helpful as they help in normal functioning of the digestive tract. It is also advisable to take plenty of water to avoid constipation which can cause pressure in the abdomen and pelvic floor muscles.
  • Take adequate vitamin supplements of vitamins C and E.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: April 5, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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