Varicocele is the medical term used to describe abnormally dilated or large veins in the scrotum. In most men, varicoceles can only be found during a medical examination. Many varicoceles do not cause any symptoms, but in some men they can cause pain in the scrotum, sometimes extreme, and can affect fertility if left untreated. In rare cases, varicoceles can cause shrinkage of the testicles. Standing for long periods of time or intense activity can increase the pain of varicoceles.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Anti-inflammatory medication
- Athletic supporter or snug underwear
- Ice packs
Lie down with your feet elevated. This will reduce some of the blood flow to the enlarged veins, which will help pain.
Take an anti-inflammatory medication, such as ibuprofen, to reduce some of the swelling and relieve discomfort.
Wear snug-fitting underwear, such as briefs, or an athletic supporter to support the scrotum.
Place an ice pack on the sore area for a few minutes to reduce swelling.
Have outpatient surgery to reduce blood flow to the vein. Performed by an urologist under general anaesthesia, a varicocelectomy is a procedure in which the enlarged vein is ligated, or tied off, and blood flow redirected to normal veins.
Consider a non-surgical embolisation of the varicocele. In this procedure, a small plastic tube containing coils is inserted through a small incision in the groin, and then, guided by X-Ray, the coils are placed in the varicocele to block the blood flow. This outpatient procedure is performed under light sedation, and can help reduce the pain and pressure.
Tips and warnings
- Varicocles are most common in men ages 15-25. In 90 per cent of cases, varicoceles are found on the left side of the scrotum.
- There are a number of theories as to why varicoceles seem to affect fertility, but according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine Practice Committee, varicoceles do appear to kill or damage sperm.
- Surgery to treat varicoceles is generally only for men who are experiencing severe pain or infertility issues. In general, if the varicoceles are only detectable via ultrasound, surgery is not necessary.
- Varicoceles can reoccur after surgery or embolisation.
- If varicoceles appear suddenly in an older man, it may indicate the presence of a tumour in a vein of the scrotum.
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