Varicocele

What is a varicocele?
A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds your testicles. This is similar to the varicose veins that are seen in the lower extremities of the body. Varicoceles are when the pampiniform plexus veins in the scrotum become enlarged and are often formed during the puberty stage. While in most cases, varicoceles cause no problems and are harmless, it is still possible that varicoceles can cause pain, infertility, and anatomical imbalances with the testicles.

Most males with a varicocele have no symptoms, but that alone is not a reason to ignore the condition altogether.

Do varicoceles cause infertility?
Yes. Varicoceles do cause infertility in men, but it may not be the case in all instances. Statistically, around 40% of the men suffering from this condition are known to be infertile, while the rest may not have any difficulty in fathering a child.

Causes and risk factors
The causes associated with varicoceles include

  • Malfunction of the valves in the veins
  • Missing valves in the veins
  • Blockage in the veins caused by swollen lymph nodes

In terms of risks, while varicoceles develop in the time of puberty the complications are only experienced in men above the age of 45.

Diagnosis
Given that in most cases, the condition is asymptomatic, many patients will not find anything unusual in their body or ability. Very few cases of men will complain of a heavy sensation or occasional throbbing in the scrotum. The condition can be diagnosed by a physical examination. This will be followed by an ultrasound scan to study the veins in detail and look for blockages.

Treatment
The treatment for varicoceles is required only if the condition is causing low sperm count, low volume testes, pain, swelling, and infertility.

Embolization
Embolization is a treatment method wherein blood supply is disrupted to the affected part. This can be accomplished as an OPD procedure under local anaesthesia. The doctor usually inserts a needle through the groin to access the veins in the scrotum and cut off the blood supply to the affected region.

Surgery
In some cases, wherein embolization is not a viable treatment option, the doctor will need to perform a surgical intervention to treat varicoceles. The procedure is known as varicocelectomy. This procedure removes the affected veins and is largely a lot more successful than embolization.

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