In the scrotum, there is a spermatic cord and veins that run alongside it which bring blood from the scrotum back to the heart. If the one-way valves in the veins do not function properly, abnormal blood flow and/or a backup of blood occurs, causing swelling and enlargement of the veins. This enlargement is known as a varicocele, and it usually causes male infertility.
Most common in males aged 15 – 25, varicoceles usually form slowly and are typically found on the left side of the scrotum. The varicoceles are sometimes visible as a mass on the scrotum, but may not be visible especially when the male is lying down. Another sign of a varicocele is that the testicle on the side of the varicocele may be smaller than the other testicle.
- To alleviate the discomfort and/or pain from a varicocele, men are advised to wear snug-fitting underwear or a jock strap. If the discomfort persists, another treatment may be needed.
- A varicocelectomy, an outpatient surgery to correct a varicocele, might be needed. The area will be numbed, and the urologist will make a small incision in the lower abdomen. The abnormal vein(s) will be tied off to stop the enlargement, and normal blood flow will resume in the normal veins. After this procedure, men are advised to keep an ice pack on the area for 24 hours to lessen swelling.
- A varicocele embolization is also an outpatient surgery to block blood flow to the abnormal vein and redirect it to normal veins. A tiny incision is made, and a catheter is placed in the groin or neck. Using an X-ray to guide the catheter down to the varicocele, a coil is then passed through the catheter and placed inside the abnormal vein. After the procedure, men are advised to keep an ice pack on the area and wear supportive underwear for a while.