Varicocele

Track 10: Varicocele

A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins that transport oxygen-depleted blood away from the testicle. A varicocele (VAR-ih-koe-seel) is an enlargement of the veins within the loose bag of skin that holds your testicles (scrotum). A varicocele is similar to a varicose vein you might see in your leg. Left untreated, they can cause testicular atrophy (shrinkage of the testicles). There is also a strong association between varicoceles and male infertility. Varicoceles have been linked with decreases in sperm count and motility and increases in the number of deformed and ineffective sperm.

However, if you experience pain or swelling in your scrotum, discover a mass on your scrotum, notice that your testicles are different sizes, or develop a varicocele in your youth, or you are having problems with fertility, contact your doctor. A number of conditions can cause a scrotal mass or testicular pain, some of which require immediate treatment. Your spermatic cord carries blood to and from your testicles. It is not certain what causes varicoceles. However, many experts believe a varicocele forms when the valves inside the veins in the cord prevent your blood from flowing properly. The resulting backup causes the veins to widen (dilate). This might cause damage to the testicle and result in worsened fertility.

Shrinkage of the affected testicle (atrophy). The bulk of the testicle comprises sperm-producing tubules. When damaged, as from varicocele, the testicle shrinks and softens. It is not clear what causes the testicle to shrink, but the malfunctioning valves allow blood to pool in the veins, which can result in increased pressure in the veins and exposure to toxins in the blood that may cause testicular damage.

Infertility Varicoceles might keep the local temperature in or around the testicle too high, affecting sperm formation, movement (motility) and function.

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