Varicoceles are similar to varicose veins, but they occur around the testicles rather than the legs. They do not usually cause any serious problems, but they can impact male fertility.
They happen when certain veins in the scrotum become enlarged, due to a malfunction in some of the valves involved in pumping the blood. They affect around 15 percent of males, and they tend to form between the ages of 15 and 25 years.
Varicoceles normally affect just one side, usually the left.
This article will look at the causes, symptoms and treatments of varicoceles.
Fast facts on varicoceles
Varicoceles are similar to varicose veins but they affect the testicular area in men.
They are thought to affect 15 percent of men, usually between the age of 15 and 25 years.
The exact cause is unknown, but it may be similar to that of varicose veins.
They are not usually painful.
Varicoceles are not usually serious, but complications include fertility problems.
Surgery is possible, if complications arise.
What is a varicocele?
Varicoceles refer to enlarged veins in the testes.
A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum, the the bag that contains the testes. They are similar to varicose veins of the leg.
They affect a type of vein known as the pampiniform plexus.
The pampiniform plexus is found in the spermatic cord. This cord also holds the vas deferens, the tube that carries sperm, and the testicular artery, which transports blood to the testicles.
The creation of sperm is most efficient at around 34.5 degrees Celsius, or 94.1 degrees Fahrenheit, rather than the body’s standard 37 degrees Celsius. This is one reason why the testes are physically separate from the trunk of the body.
The main role of the pampiniform plexus is to cool the arterial blood before it reaches the sperm. It does this through a “heat exchange” mechanism.
Varicoceles can disrupt this cooling system. This can prevent the testicles from producing good quality sperm.