Everything You Need to Know About Varicoceles
The most common culprits of male infertility generally involve the number and quality of sperm. One of the most common underlying causes of this decreased testicular function is a condition known as scrotal varicoceles. This condition is characterized by enlarged veins inside the scrotum, which is the pouch of skin that holds the testicles. It is similar to having varicose veins in your legs. It’s estimated that about 15 out of every 100 men have varicoceles. Thankfully, this condition is often very easy to treat.
Signs and Symptoms of a Varicocele
In most cases, varicoceles produce no symptoms. However, some patients have reported experiencing some pain. This pain varies from person to person, with some individuals reporting dull discomfort and others reporting a sharp pain. The pain sometimes worsens throughout the day or is relieved by lying down. Varicoceles can also become visible and have been described as looking like a “bag of worms.” Some other reported symptoms include scrotal swelling or testicular lumps.
How Do Varicoceles Affect Fertility?
Varicoceles are a cause of infertility only when certain veins become enlarged. In a normal male reproductive system, the vas deferens and the testicular artery are held together by the spermatic cord, which is a set of blood vessels, nerves, and ducts that extend to and from the testicles. The cord also holds the pampiniform plexus, which is a network of veins responsible for draining blood from the testicles and regulating the scrotum’s temperature.
Temperature plays a crucial role in the male reproductive system’s ability to function. The testicles need to maintain a specific heat that is about 5 degrees cooler than that of the rest of the body. This is the best temperature for making high-quality sperm. When these temperature-regulating veins become enlarged, the testicles become overheated, which can lead to decreased sperm production.
Causes of Varicoceles
In spite of their pervasiveness, the causes of varicoceles are not fully understood. Furthermore, there aren’t any significant risk factors that are associated with the development of a varicocele, making it difficult to predict. What we do know is that varicoceles develop because blood isn’t moving through the veins properly.
How Are Varicoceles Treated?
In some cases, varicoceles are not treated. However, if you are experiencing infertility because of varicoceles, then you may want to consider treatment. One common treatment option is varicocele ligation surgery. In this procedure, the abnormal veins are tied off, which allows blood to flow through the normal veins instead.
If you suspect that you have a varicocele and would like to explore treatment options, please contact us today.