What Is A Varicocele?

Varicocele - A collection of dilated veins in the spermatic cord - when these veins become slack they become enlarged and dilated.

It is a very common condition of the testes - that usually develops slowly and often displays few symptoms, just prominent veins that are visible or palpable in the testes. They are similar to varicose veins - which are made up of arteries, veins, valves, nerves and the tubes that transport sperm from the testes to the penis.

It develops due to defective valves that would usually let blood flow away from the testicle. They can occur on either or both sides - but are far more common on the left side because of the way the blood vessel are organised. It can be very painful and cause great discomfort. Symptoms can include:

  • Scrota that appear like a bag of worms - feels like a bag of cooked spaghetti.

  • Testicular Atrophy - pain in the testes on lifting or straining

  • Appears purplish in colour

  • Infertility

Varicocele and its affects on sperm

Varicocele occur in approximately 10% - 20% of the male population. It is present in 35% - 44% of men with primary infertility - and in 45% - 81% of men with secondary infertility. A large varicocele can contain a large volume of pooled blood that tends to slow down impairing the blood supply, increasing the temperature of the testes, and both sides of the epididymis to a level above that which is needed for optimal sperm production and function.

Even a small varicocele may be significant and have an effect upon:

  • Sperm Production

  • Sperm Function

  • Sperm Morphology

Treatment of a varicocele

A surgical procedure called Varicocelectomy is often required to correct a varicocele. The urologist will make a cut usually in the lower abdomen and tie off the abnormal vein allowing blood to flow around the area into normal veins.

A varicocele repair can:

  • Relieve pain

  • Improve testicular function

  • Improve sperm quality

  • Improve sperm quality


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