Varicocele: Common Cause of Male Infertility & its Treatment
About 25% of male factors are responsible for infertility in Indian Couples. Male infertility has become a major concern in recent years. With it being considered a taboo topic in society, it was difficult to spread awareness regarding the risks associated with it. As the research and medical facilities evolved, professionals have analyzed critical factors that might contribute to infertility in males.
One most common reason for male infertility is Varicocele. It is common in adult males and may go unnoticed for years. But what is it? What are the symptoms of varicocele? Are there any treatment options available? What are the varicocele causes?
We will discuss everything about varicocele here to understand it briefly. You might have heard about varicose veins. That is a condition wherein the veins become enlarged and twisted. Veins in our legs are more likely to get varicose. Varicocele is in a similar condition but it concerns male genitals. Let’s learn more about it.
WHAT IS VARICOCELE?
Now that we know about varicose veins, it will be easier to understand Varicocele. In layman’s terms, varicocele refers to the enlargement of veins in the scrotum. The scrotum sac holds your testicles along with the veins and arteries that pass on blood to the reproductive glands. As a result, it directly contributes to infertility in males.
Varicocele can affect fertility in males in the following ways:
- Decrease sperm quality
- Low production of Sperms
- Shrinking or improper development of testicles
These are some major factors that are developed by varicocele and result in male infertility. It is said to be a common occurrence in adult males. Statistically speaking, about 15% of males suffer from varicocele. They are more often found in young male adults in the age group of 15-25 years.
But, what are its causes?
CAUSES OF VARICOCELE
While there has not been a definite varicocele cause, it is assumed that problems with blood flow in the spermatic cord can be its major cause. The spermatic cord delivers blood to and from your testicles. If due to any fault in the valves, blood flow is improper: it can result in varicocele.
A young adult can develop varicocele during puberty and mostly in the left scrotum. It can be a result of sudden growth in teen males. While it can occur on both sides of the scrotum but that is a rare condition. You can easily miss out on varicocele unless it has been diagnosed by your doctor or by doing self examination.
That brings us to an important question, How do I know if I have Varicocele?
As discussed above, varicocele can easily go unnoticed by a layman. Many times, they don’t hurt. That’s why it's important to get your routine checkups scheduled in regular intervals. Look out for the following symptoms:
- The pain may worsen as the day passes.
- You might notice varying discomfort from sharp to dull.
- Increase in pain due to physical exertion.
- Standing for long periods can contribute to intense pain.
- You will feel relieved when you lie on your back.
Varicocele pain is most of the time not felt. But if it happens, consult an expert immediately. As the time progresses, varicocele enlarges and can be easily noticed when you stand. Watch out to get it diagnosed at its initial stage.
At certain times, varicoceles will not require treatment. But if it causes intense pain and interferes in the fertility process, you will need varicocele surgery. Sometimes, you may notice size differences in testicles. It can pose a risk and will need treatment.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, get checked immediately. Your doctor will run the following tests to diagnose varicocele.
- Thorough physical examination.
- Valsalva maneuver to diagnose any smaller varicoceles.
- Scrotal ultrasound to analyze the situation in detail.
As per the results, the doctor will classify the varicocele into Grades, ranging from Grade 0 to Grade 3. While Grade 0 is the smallest, Grade 3 is referred to as the largest varicocele which can make changes in your scrotum.
Your doctor will suggest the following treatment options:
1. Medications: If your varicocele causes intense pain, the doctor will prescribe pain relief medications.
2. Microsurgical Varicocelectomy: The enlarged or twisted veins are tied off to regulate proper blood flow in the normal veins.
3. Laparoscopic Surgery: A small incision is made in the abdomen to insert tubes or tiny instruments and repair the veins. It has high recurrence rate & side effect
4. Percutaneous embolization: A radiologist will make an incision and insert a tube to pass instruments. Through those instruments, the doctor will view the enlarged veins and treat varicocele by inserting a coil or balloon in the tube. This affects the blood flow and helps to repair varicocele by shrinking it. It has high recurrence rate & side effect
Varicocele surgery can increase sperm production and quality. The patient can be discharged after a day or two of the surgery and should take proper rest in the upcoming 2 weeks. The doctor will then carry on with the fertility process and check on sperm quality after a few months.
Varicocele is not dangerous. It infrequently requires any treatment and is easily treatable. What’s important to note is that, get it diagnosed at the earliest to have better chances at increasing sperm quality and production. If you notice any increase in mass of scrotum, consult your doctor to discuss further procedures.