A varicocele is an enlargement of veins in the scrotum (the pouch of skin that holds the testicles).
These enlarged veins affect a type of vein called the pampiniform plexus, which is found in the spermatic cord. This cord holds the vas deferens (the tube that carries the sperm) and the testicular artery (the vein transporting blood to the testicles). Varicoceles affect all of these organs, which are integral to the male reproductive system.
Varicoceles are a common disorder that can be compared to varicose veins (twisted and/or swollen veins found in the leg). This condition affects about 1 in every 5 males and normally occurs in the left testicle and is a common cause of male infertility.
The expert urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta offer accurate diagnoses and tailor-made treatment plans for varicocele repair. They also have treatment plans for other conditions linked to male infertility such as epididymitis or low sperm count Call or book an appointment now.
Varicoceles are usually painless and cause no symptoms. A small varicocele may be too small even to see or feel. However, varicoceles may cause mild discomfort, aches, or even pain, usually in the left testicle.
Swollen veins in the scrotal sac often feel or look like a bag of worms (or spaghetti). Varicocele-affected scrotal veins can also cause a low sperm count and testicular atrophy (shrinkage of the testicles).
When to See a Doctor
An individual should see a doctor if they notice:
- Aching testicles (especially after physical exertion)
- Swollen testicle or scrotum
- A small lump above the affected testicle
- Male infertility (inability to reproduce after one year of trying)
How is a Varicocele Diagnosed?
During a physical exam, a physician may notice a varicocele (an enlarged testicular vein in the scrotum, similar to a varicose vein in the leg). To confirm a diagnosis, a healthcare provider might order a scrotal ultrasound. This will often provide more details about the affected testicular veins.
Your healthcare provider might also recommend semen tests or blood tests to check your semen quality and see if the varicoceles will affect fertility.
How to Treat Varicocele
Varicoceles can affect sperm quality, sperm production and can result in male infertility. In other cases, varicoceles develop during puberty and can cause slow testicular growth. This could be due to the increased blood flow to the genitals during puberty. In cases like these, varicocele surgery may be recommended by your physician.
A few surgical options that are available to treat varicoceles involve blocking the blood flowing through the pampiniform plexus veins. These surgical treatment options are listed below.
- Percutaneous embolization: An interventional radiologist inserts a tube into the body through the groin or neck. Instruments are passed through the tube, and then the surgeon blocks the vein by scarring it using chemicals or coils.
- Varicocelectomy: This surgery is performed under local or general anesthesia. The surgeon will usually access the area through the groin. The surgeon will then close the affected veins by using ultrasound and surgical microscopes to reroute the blood through other vessels that are healthier.
- Laparoscopic surgery: The surgeon makes a small incision in the abdomen and passes a tiny surgical instrument through to perform vein litigation (the surgical tying of veins done to prevent blood pools).
If you have concerns about varicoceles (affected veins in your scrotum) and want to know about the available treatment options, then make an appointment to speak to one of the urologists at Urology of Greater Atlanta. Call or book an appointment now.