What is Varicocele?
A varicocele is when the veins in the scrotum become enlarged. Varicoceles are fairly common affecting 10-15% of males, although many men may not even realize they have a varicocele, because they don’t have any noticeable symptoms.
What Causes Varicoceles?
While the exact cause of varicoceles is unknown, many experts believe a varicocele occurs when the valves inside the veins in the spermatic cord prevent the blood from flowing properly. This causes veins to dilate or swell potentially causing temperature changes in the surrounding testicular tissue, which may impact fertility.
Varicoceles typically form during puberty and they can grow larger over time. Varicoceles are more common on the left side of the scrotum due to the position of the left testicular vein.
Symptoms of a Varicocele
Most men with a varicocele won’t experience any symptoms, but potential symptoms of a varicocele include:
- A lump in one of your testicles (typically on the left side)
- Pain and/or swelling in your scrotum
Varicoceles and Infertility
Varicoceles can contribute to male infertility. In order for your partner to become pregnant, you need to produce healthy sperm that can successfully swim and fertilize the egg.
Varicoceles might impact the temperature in or around the testicles, affecting sperm concentration and quality. Varicoceles can cause oligospermia, or low sperm count. Varicoceles have also been linked to lower testosterone levels.
Most men with varicocele will not need treatment. However, men that are experiencing pain or are having trouble conceiving, can be treated through surgery which may help to improve sperm count and quality.
For men with significantly impaired fertility, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and IVF with ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) can great improve the odds of a successful pregnancy.
You might be interested in: Learn more about Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ISCI)