Definition - What does Varicocele mean?

A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins that carry blood away from the testicles and back to the heart. These veins are located in the scrotum and then run along the spermatic cord (vessels and nerves running to and from the testes), back towards the body. A varicocele is similar to the varicose veins that sometimes occur in the legs. This condition may affect fertility by lowering the sperm count.

FertilitySmarts explains Varicocele

Because of the way the veins run through the scrotum, varicoceles are more common on the left side. They may be diagnosed by palpation or ultrasound examination.

Often this condition produces no noticeable symptoms. If present, symptoms may include pain, swelling, and possible shrinkage of one testicle.

Varicoceles can be corrected surgically. Although surgical correction can increase sperm count, treatment does not necessarily improve fertility. Surgery is most effective at correcting the shrinkage of the testicle when performed no later than adolescence.

A 2016 study indicated that surgical correction to seal off the enlarged veins (re-routing the blood to the normally functioning veins) may improve fertility for certain patients who had poor sperm quality prior to treatment.

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