Varicocele is a condition where the veins inside your scrotum swell and get more significant in size. The scrotum is the shielding sac around your testes and is responsible for maintaining its shape.
Varicocele is much similar to the varicose vein, which shows similar symptoms in the legs.
Having this condition in your scrotum may feel like a bag of worms as the size of your testes
gets enlarged. This affects a type of vein termed as pampiniform plexus, which is situated in
the spermatic cord. This chord holds vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm, and the testicular artery, which transports blood to the testicles.
It is a common condition as approximately 15 – 20% of men experience this at least once in their lifetime. In most cases, varicocele is painless and might feel negligible to notice but can sometimes cause an aching sensation around your testes. For some severe cases, varicocele can cause fertility issues and might reduce sperm quality in the long run.
Varicocele can happen at almost any age but is most common in teens for the hormonal imbalance in blood flow during puberty. Varicocele typically affects only one side of the testicles, and usually, it’s the left side.
Causes of varicocele:
Following are the most common causes of varicocele:
- The most common cause is that when the valves inside the spermatic chords, which are responsible for carrying blood to and from testes, suddenly stops working efficiently or do nothing at all.
- When these blood-carrying valves stop working, the blood around your testes gets accumulated and leads to swelling around that area. In most cases, it is seen on the left side only.
- Such a condition is usually observed during the teenage due to the hormonal imbalance in the puberty phase.
Symptoms of varicocele:
Most males suffering from varicocele do not show any significant symptoms. Rarely, some signs of slight pain are observed, which may be temporary in nature. However, varicocele can be a matter of concern for many reasons, the effect on male fertility being a major one.
Following are some commonly noticed symptoms of varicocele:
- Slight testicular or scrotum pain, which gets better when you are in a comforting position. This aching pain usually increases as the standing time increases for an extended period of time. This may also be improved with activities like bike riding. Varicocele with painful symptoms is most commonly observed.
- The concern of male infertility via varicocele condition is the most harmful and alarming symptom. This happens as the blood accumulated around the scrotum area increases the temperature inside the testes and blocks the enlarged veins, resulting in decreased sperm count and other sperm motility issues. Approximately 30% of the male infertility cases reported are mainly due to the varicocele condition.
- Testicular size is usually seen in an abnormal shape. Swollen size of one or both of your testes due to an excess blood accumulation is commonly seen. Small lump above the affected testicle and in rare cases, shrinking of the scrotum size is also observed. It usually looks like a swollen bag of worms as the size enlarged causes the veins to stick with the inner side of the testes.
Diagnosis for varicocele:
Following are three fundamental diagnoses available for varicocele:
Physical Examination – By a mere look and examining the affected testicle, your the doctor shall easily determine the problem of varicocele. Your doctor may ask you to stand straight and practice breathing exercises until the defect in the scrotum is observed. This process is called the “Valsalva maneuver” and helps in identifying the enlarged veins.
Ultrasound test – In case of finding a detailed overview of the affected scrotum, your a urologist may advise you to take an ultrasound test. Ultrasound will help in determining any signs of blood accumulation inside the valves, which are as thin as 3 mm in size. It helps in identifying varicocele in teens and is used when the physical examination doesn’t work for its purpose.
Semen Test – Since varicocele is commonly connected with the issue of male infertility, defaults in semen tests for sperm count and motility can be one of the mechanisms for identifying varicocele.
Ranging from home remedies to technical surgeries, varicocele can be treated and managed in various ways. Following are a couple of treatment options that your urologist may prescribe in due course:
- Home Remedies – A couple of home fixes can be really helpful to improve the condition of varicocele. Firstly, it is recommended to incorporate some routine changes in your daily lifestyle. It is advised to abstain from standing for long durations and to avoid tight-fitting clothes. Following this, apply ice cubes covered in a towel over the affected area can help to some extent. It is so as this will decrease the increased temperature in the scrotum due to excess blood accumulated.
Caution: Don’t apply the ice cubes directly to the skin.
- Medications – Supplementing some medications like Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may be advised to remove varicocele in cases of minor aching caused in the scrotum.
- Surgery – In cases where the patient suffers from acute pain or has negatively impacting factors from varicocele condition, surgical methods are usually advised by the respective urologists. The surgical methods incorporated will clip or tie off the veining causing the symptoms. This will stop the blood flow from the affecting veins will consecutively reduce the amount of blood accumulated. This will, as a result, improve the sperm count and its motility as the temperature decreases to the ideal level. One might still face varicocele post-surgery, but it won’t cause any pain or harm the sperm levels in the scrotum. Surgical methods for varicocele are outpatient procedures, meaning the patient can leave safely the same day and resume a normal lifestyle after 2-3 days only. Surgery used to fix varicocele is highly common among men suffering from it as it improves sperm count levels to significant levels within one year only. Approximately 40-50% of the couples enhance their chances for pregnancy after getting varicocele fixed through surgical methods.
Varicocele is a common condition that can affect men of different ages and stages in lifestyle. As per several studies conducted, it is reported that approximately 1 out of every five men suffer from varicocele at least once in their lifetime. It is caused due to the accumulation of excess blood in veins inside the scrotum. Such a condition is most commonly seen in teenage due to the hormonal imbalance in the puberty phase. Varicocele can have a variance of symptoms, but swollen size of testes, testicular aching pain, and abnormal sperm count levels are commonly observed. Physical examination is the most common form of diagnosing varicocele, but semen and ultrasound tests are also commonly seen. Ultrasound and semen tests are used if the symptoms from this condition are not physically present. Treating varicocele is no more complicated as several home remedies, medications, and surgical methods impact fixes.
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