Varicocele is a condition whereby the veins in the scrotum are swollen and enlarged. Ideally, the function of the vein is to carry blood low in oxygen from the testicles but in this case, there is the backflow of blood in the vein which results in swelling and most times pain.
A varicocele occurs only in the scrotum which is quite similar to varicose veins that occur in the leg. A varicocele mostly results in the decrease in quality and production of sperm which is the lead cause of infertility in males, it also shrinks the testicles.
CAUSES OF VARICOCELE
The cause of Varicocele is most times uncertain. However, varicocele is formed due to defects in the valves of the veins. The valve in the vein controls the blood flow to and from the testicles. If there is an obstruction in the blood flow, the blood backs up causing the veins to swell and enlarge.
It mostly occurs during puberty when the testicles grow rapidly and need a maximum flow of blood. Varicocele results in poor circulation, thereby increasing the blood flow and raising the temperature of the testicles. In some cases, this can affect sperm production thereby leading to infertility. Varicocele is commonly seen on the left side of the testicles.
SYMPTOMS OF VARICOCELE
- Lump in one of the testicles
- Swelling in the scrotum
- Dull, recurring pain in the scrotum
- Dull ache in the testicle(s)
- A feeling of heaviness or dragging in the scrotum
- Dilated veins can be felt in the scrotum.
- Discomfort in the testicle or on that particular side of the scrotum
- The testicle is smaller on the side where the dilated veins are (due to difference in blood flow)
- Physical examination is usually conducted by the doctor who might reveal a non-tender mass above the testicle that feels like a bag of worms. If it’s large enough, the doctor will be able to feel it.
- If it’s a smaller varicocele, the doctor might ask the patient to stand, take a deep breath and hold it while they bear down. This helps the doctor detect abnormal enlargement of the veins.
- If the physical exam is inconclusive, a scrotal ultrasound is ordered. This involves the use of high-frequency sound waves to create precise images of structures inside the body.
- In certain cases, further imaging might be recommended to rule out other causes of varicocele, such as a tumor compressing the spermatic vein.
Treatment might not be necessary for varicocele. Most men with varicoceles are able to father a child without any treatment. However, if it causes pain, testicular atrophy, or infertility or if you are considering assisted reproductive techniques, such a person may undergo varicocele repair.
Repair methods include:
Open surgery. This treatment usually is done on an outpatient basis, during a general or local anesthetic. Commonly, your surgeon will approach the vein through your groin, but it’s also possible to make an incision in your abdomen or below your groin.
Pain from this surgery generally is mild but might continue for several days or weeks. Pain medication may be prescribed for a limited period after surgery to relieve discomfort.
Laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon makes a small incision in your abdomen and passes a tiny instrument through the incision to see and repair the varicocele. This procedure requires general anesthesia.
Percutaneous embolization. A radiologist inserts a tube into a vein in the groin or neck through which instruments can be passed. Viewing your enlarged veins on a monitor, the doctor releases coils or a solution that causes scarring to create a blockage in the testicular veins, which interrupts the blood flow and repairs the varicocele. This procedure isn’t as widely used as a surgery.
- Infertility or Low Fertility
Doctors believe infertility or low fertility can be one of the varicocele-related complications men may experience. Varicoceles have been found to cause problems for men wanting to father a child. In fact, four out of 10 men experiencing male factor infertility have a varicocele.
- Low Testosterone
Doctors believe a varicocele can cause low testosterone in some men. Testosterone is the primary male hormone produced in the testicles. When the testicles do not produce enough testosterone, men can experience a number of symptoms like low libido, sleep problems, decreased ability to exercise, sexual dysfunction, etc.
- Testicular Atrophy
A varicocele can damage the testicle to the point that it shrinks. Doctors aren’t sure why a varicocele causes testicles to atrophy, but they think the pooling blood in the affected veins can increase pressure, in turn increasing exposure to toxins, which could result in damage to the testicle.
PREVENTION OF VARICOCELE
Physical activity promotes healthy blood flow and circulation and has a positive effect on vein and artery health
Eat Healthy Foods
Fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, fish, poultry, and nuts are examples of healthy, whole foods that contribute to improved heart health and circulation.
Drink Plenty of Water
Staying hydrated can help prevent your blood from thickening and causing problems with circulation. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to help flush toxins from the body and to combat circulation issues.
Smoking can damage the structure and function of blood vessels and lead to plaque buildup in veins and arteries. If you smoke, quit smoking as soon as possible to improve and maintain your vascular health and reduce the risk for blood clots