What is Varicocele?
Varicocele is an ongoing low-grade genital pain caused by the enlargement of several veins in the scrotum. These swollen veins do no cause cancer, and are not dangerous, but if not treated may impact on fertility. They appear as a soft mass in the scrotum, and will look similar to a varicose vein you might have in your leg. The scrotum is the loose bag of skin that hold the testicles. The enlarged veins are usually caused by blood leaving the testes having to flow to the heart. Anyone who does not have good circulation may have a problem with good blood flow, and may find that some of the blood is forced flow back into the testicle, where it pools and causes congestion. It is this pooling of blood which can cause ongoing, low grade genital pain.
The features associated with varicocele-related genital pain. Varicoceles usually form during puberty, and get worse over time. If the varicocele is large, it can affect sperm production, and lead to fertility issues if you are trying for a child.
Here are some of the symptomatic pain issues:
- It is usually a mild, achy type of pain which is constant.
- The pain is always on the left side of the scrotum, as the varicoceles mostly occur on the left side where the main vein to the testicles is situated.
- The pain is generally in the testicle or close to it, is not sharp or stabbing, and there is usually no pain in the groin area.
- Physical activity like exercise or sex, and standing for long periods, may worsen the pain.
- The only way the pain may completely disappear is when you are lying down, as varicocele pain depends on the force of gravity against the blood flowing up to the heart. When you lie down there is no force of gravity. This means that though there may be pain during the day and evening, there will be no pain when you wake up in the morning after lying flat all night – until you get up and start moving around again.
There are 2 complications which may occur if varicocele is not attended to, both can cause damage to the testicle on the left side, and sometimes even both testicles:
- Testicular shrinkage. Most of the testicle consists of small sperm-producing tubes, and when damaged by the blood pooling in the veins from the varicocele, the testicle can soften and shrink.
- Fertility issues. Good quality sperm production by the testicles is influenced by the temperature in the testicles. To operate efficiently, the testicles need to be cooler than the body, which is why they are situated outside the body. Varicoceles may keep the temperature in and around the testicles too warm and affect the sperm formation, quality, and motility.
A varicocele condition needs to have medical attention to be eliminated. The good news is that varicoceles can be removed for at least 90% of the time, by means of a minor surgical procedure known as a varicocele repair. The procedure is performed in a day hospital and complications are extremely rare. There is also very little pain, and a couple of pain pills will help.
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