What It Is
Varicoceles are enlargements of the veins in the scrotum sac. These enlargements are caused by a faulty vein valve that allows blood to back up.
Who Gets It
Varicoceles are found in 35 to 40 percent of men who are screened for infertility.
One sign of varicoceles is an aching pain after standing or sitting for an extended time and pressure build-up in the affected veins. Heavy lifting may make varicocele symptoms worse and, in some cases, can even cause varicoceles to form. Larger varicoceles are often painful. Atrophy, or shrinking, of the testicles is another sign of varicoceles.
How It's Diagnosed/Detected
Larger varicoceles can be detected during a physical examination, while smaller ones are generally found through imaging techniques. The condition is often diagnosed in adolescent boys during a sports physical exam. Many doctors believe that small varicoceles are unlikely to affect fertility, but larger ones can cause problems.
How It Affects Fertility (And Pregnancy)
Doctors aren’t exactly sure why varicoceles cause infertility, but they do have a few theories: One is that the extra blood increases the internal temperature of the testes, which in turn affects sperm production and quality. Studies also show that men with varicoceles experience a drop in testosterone levels (testosterone, the male hormone, is necessary for sperm production). Still another theory is that poor drainage in the veins leaves the testicles more exposed to toxins, which might damage sperm quality and production. Left untreated, varicoceles can lead to oligospermia (few sperm being produced) or azoospermia (no sperm).
If a varicocele is detected during a physical examination, surgical repair will probably be recommended. The surgery can be done on an outpatient basis under local anesthesia.
On average, 50 to 60 percent of partners of men who have this surgery become pregnant within two years.
- A few months after my first child was born, I wanted to be pregnant again—as soon as possible. I wanted my children to be close in age, the closer...
- You might have spent most of your life (and an excruciatingly embarrassing high school health class) learning how to avoid getting pregnant, but...
- There’s no need to feel deprived when you’re trying to get pregnant. Quite the opposite. Check out these foods that taste great and can help keep...
- By now you’ve probably heard of Clomid, the most commonly-used fertility drug in the United States. But do you really know how it works and what the possible side effects can be? If fertility drugs are your next step in the attempt to get pregnant, then here is a quick rundown of the seven medications your doctor is most likely to prescribe.