What is it?
It is a medical issue which primarily affects young men between the ages of 12-25 wherein enlargement of veins occurs within their testicular sac (scrotum). Testicles or testes produce sperm and male hormones.
How is it caused?
In simple terms, you can picture a testicle and attached to it is the spermatic cord. Surrounding the spermatic cord are veins which assist in blood flow to the testicles. But in some cases, the normal flow becomes abnormal and veins dilate (turn large).
This, in turn, leads them to form a cluster and eventually, a varicocele is formed. At times, varicocele causes the testicles to appear swollen and that is a sure-shot sign of running to the hospital.
Symptoms and implications
In most cases, varicoceles are not painful and hence, they go unnoticed. But in case you experience pain in your testicle(s), it means that the time to consult a doctor has come. If left untreated, a varicocele may cause the affected testicle to shrink and lead to its permanent damage.
In longer-term, a persisting varicocele can cause infertility by lowering the number as well as the quality of sperm produced. A urologist physically examines varicocele by touching a person’s testicles while they stand and lay down. If the size is big, it is found easily. For smaller varicoceles, ultrasound of the scrotum is conducted.
Can it be prevented?
There is no way to prevent varicocele. It affects almost 15% of the male population. It is a good idea to get yourself checked and especially wise for teenagers to get checked at least once every year.
There are two types of surgical procedures for treating varicocele. First one is the open surgery method in which the doctor makes an incision (cut) in the lower abdomen just adjacent to the area where your leg meets the upper body. Then the veins are removed and the patient is discharged in a matter of a few hours. Over the next few days, there is slight discomfort and pain but this procedure of Inguinal Varicocelectomy is the most widely chosen method of treatment.
The second option is Laparoscopic surgery where using a small abdominal incision, the dilated veins are dealt with. This is also an equally safe and trustable option and your doctor can suggest you the best route to take depending upon the severity of varicocele and the time you can give towards rest and recovery.
About 10 million men around the world have varicocele to varying degrees. Most don’t go to a doctor because their problem doesn’t show any visible symptoms. If you are trying to conceive with your partner, it is advisable to consult your doctor in such a scenario. One of the reasons behind male infertility is varicocele and when it can be treated, it should not remain a barrier to having a child.
To protect the identity, the person in the picture is a model.