A varicocele is a term that refers to widening of the testicular veins, to be more precise widening of the veins running along the cord that holds testicles. This cord is anatomically known as the spermatic cord and it connects the testicles to the abdomen.
Varicocele Causes and Risk factors
This blood vessel widening gradually develops and most frequently affects men between the age of 15 and 25. It is reported to affect more the left than the right testicle. The major problems associated with varicocele is potential infertility.
If the condition occurs in older man, it may be closely connected to other way more complex health issues such as kidney tumor.
Scientists have not managed to identify the actual cause of varicocele. One explanation is that the valves inside the affected vein do not function properly and allow pooling of the blood which subsequently leads to vein expanding.
Varicocele Clinical Characteristics
A varicocele may not be visible and it is sometimes completely asymptomatic. Only if the vein expands way too much, one may start complaining about a feeling of heaviness, pain in the affected testicle or even swelling of the scrotum. The mentioned complaints may not have to be connected with this specific condition, but if they occur, one is supposed to consult his health care provider.
There is one potential, but also quite severe complication of varicocele. Namely, excessive blood pooling significantly increase the temperature inside the scrotum. This is associated with reduction of the quality of the sperms and may cause infertility issues.
After taking a thorough medical history, doctor will perform a physical exam and examine both testicles. The condition can be diagnosed during physical exam or with the assistance of a scrotal ultrasound.
Asymptomatic varicocele may be left untreated. Such patients require regular check-ups.
On the other hand, if one deals with unpleasant symptoms, he may start with non-invasive treatments. First of all, such individuals are supposed to wear supportive underwear rather than baggy boxer shorts. If this does not help, the following treatment option includes injection of a special fluid directly into the affected vein. This is a so called varicocele embolisation.
Surgery is left only if other treatments fail to provide with desirable results. Surgery is also essential way of prevention and treatment of infertility caused by varicocele. There are two surgical approaches for varicocele, open surgery and keyhole surgery. Even though the surgery is quite efficient in dealing with the enlarged vein, it may not always help with infertility issues.
Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent varicocele. This is because we actually do not know why varicocele occur in the first place. One day, if scientists manage to solve this mystery, they may also suggest certain preventive measures.