Varicocele is a condition in which the blood vessels are dilated in the area above the testicles. Your scrotum (the pouch of skin that holds the testicles) houses blood vessels that supply blood to the reproductive glands, and it is with the varicocele condition that the blood vessels become enlarged.
When a varicocele occurs, the patient can feel the blood vessels. Blood vessels bulge and appear when standing or sitting.
Varicocele is not a dangerous condition. However, in certain cases, this medical condition can cause pain and may lead to infertility.
Varicocele symptoms are very common. Varicoceles are formed since puberty and mostly affect people within the age range of 15-25 years.
There are three grades of varicocele, namely:
- Grade I: the smallest type of varicocele. It is not visible, but a physician can detect it using a device called the valsalva maneuver.
- Grade II: This type of varicocele is also not visible, but the physician or the patient can feel it without using any tools.
- Grade III: Visible varicocele conditions.
Causes of Varicocele
Varicocele can be caused by various factors. One of the common causes is when the valve in the blood vessels does not function properly. As a result, blood flow becomes obstructed and forms blood clots in the blood vessels.
Every male has a spermatic cord in his testicles. The spermatic cord is a rope-like structure that extends from the abdomen to the testicles. In the spermatic cord, there are blood vessels that help drain blood from the testicles to the scrotum or testicles that support the performance of the glands. When the blood in the spermatic cord does not flow properly, the blood clots and causes blood vessels to dilate.
There are no particular risk factors for varicoceles. Men in general have the potential to get this disease. Varicocele conditions commonly develop in men from the age of 15 to 25 years.
When to See a Doctor for Varicocele?
When dealing with varicocele symptoms, you should consult with a urologist. The specialist doctor will detect presence of varicocele by examining the condition of the male testicles.
Imaging tests may be ordered by a doctor if the varicocele cannot be detected entirely.
Imaging tests can be done with an ultrasound. An ultrasound will help rule out other possibilities that could cause varicoceles, such as tumors in blood vessels.
Another possible test is semen analysis, which is a laboratory test of sperm to measure the quality of male semen. There are hormonal tests to measure the levels of the hormone testosterone and follicle stimulating hormone. These tests will only be done if the doctor detects other abnormalities, such as testicular dysfunction.
Symptoms of Varicocele
In general, varicocele symptoms do not cause pain or discomfort in the testicles. However, if the condition gets worse and causes pain, the pain may:
- Vary from sharp or dull
- Be relieved when lying on your back
- Worsen over the course of a day
- Increase when standing or doing other physical exertion,
Patients diagnosed with varicocele usually do not know that they have varicocele symptoms. This is because there are no significant symptoms that indicate the presence of bulging blood vessels.
However, urologists are usually able to detect varicocele simply through a physical examination. Consultation with a doctor is recommended when you experience:
- Infertility problems
- Swelling of the scrotum.
- Change in the size or shape of the testicles.
- A lump or bulge in the testicle
- Large or twisted blood vessels.
Treatment for Varicocele
Many patients with varicocele do not undergo specific treatments, as the varicocele is not a severe disease and can resolve on its own. However, doctors will advise patients to undergo treatment if the patient experiences:
- Low sperm count
- Pain and discomfort.
- Infertility that lasts for two years or more
If the patient experiences all three symptoms above, the doctor may recommend surgical treatment. There are three types of surgery to treat varicocele, namely:
- Varicocelectomy. An open surgery method performed using ultrasound and a surgical microscope. The affected blood vessel will be closed so that blood can flow through the other blood vessels.
- Laparoscopic surgery. The doctor will create a small incision in the abdomen and insert a certain device to restore the affected area of the blood vessels.
- Percutaneous embolization. Performed by a radiologist by inserting a tube into the body through the neck. This method is the safest and simplest method, and does not require a long recovery period
Surgical procedures to treat varicocele disease have the potential to cause damage to blood vessels, infection, abdominal pain, and other problems. Therefore, patients will still need to undergo routine tests after surgery.
For mild cases of varicoceles, the doctor will provide underwear for the patient. This underwear can help relieve or ease the patient’s pain.
Treatment Cost for Varicocele
The cost of varicocele treatment varies, depending on the treatment method used and the varicocele grade.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of varicocele treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Varicocele
Most varicocele patients are in the age range of 15-25 years. Therefore, men within this age range are advised to carry out routine checks to detect varicocele conditions early.
One of the ways to prevent varicocele disease is by maintaining overall health. Adjust your diet by eating regularly in the right portions, and increasing the consumption of healthy and nutritionally balanced foods.
Regular exercise can also help minimise the odds of contracting varicocele disease. It is recommended that you get used to doing light exercise regularly, such as running, jogging, or walking.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Varicocele
For patients with mild varicocele, they do not require any specific treatment, as this condition can resolve on its own. For patients who feel pain due to varicocele conditions, you may avoid the triggers by avoiding sitting, standing, or doing physical activities for too long durations of time.
Varicocele pain can be relieved by lying on your back and avoiding excessive physical activity or exercise.
If a patient has undergone varicocele treatment surgery, it is advised to do regular checkups and follow the doctor’s advice during the recovery period to avoid complications of other diseases.