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Varicocele

A varicocele is a varicose vein of the testicle and scrotum that may cause pain, testicular atrophy (shrinkage) or fertility problems. Veins contain one-way valves that work to allow blood to flow from the testicles and scrotum back to the heart. When these valves fail, the blood pools and enlarges the veins around the testicle in the scrotum to cause a varicocele.

Prevalence

  • Approximately 10 percent of all men have varicoceles – among infertile couples, the incidence of varicocele increases to 30 percent
  • Highest occurrence in men aged 15-35
  • As many as 70-80,000 men in America may undergo surgical correction of varicocele annually

Symptoms

  • Pain: aching pain when an individual has been standing or sitting for long periods of time and pressure builds up on the affected veins. Typically, painful varicoceles are prominent in size.
  • Fertility Problems: There is an association between varicocele and infertility. Decreased sperm count, decreased motility of sperm, and an increase in the number of deformed sperm are related to varicocele. Some experts believe that blocked and enlarged veins around the testes, called varicoceles, cause infertility by raising the temperature in the scrotum and decreasing sperm production.
  • Testicular Atrophy: Shrinking of the testicles is another sign of varicocele. Often, once the testicle is repaired it will return to normal size.