Mercy Hospital & Health Services Contact Us
MyChart
About Mercy
Join Our Team
set font size large set font size medium set font size small
email this page print this page
Health Illustrated Encyclopedia Banner
Health Illustrated Encyclopedia

Disclaimer:
Our Health Information Database is provided by A.D.A.M. the leading provider of electronic and printed information for professionals and consumers in healthcare and industry. It provides authoritative, reliable content written and reviewed by an editorial board who represent a variety of specialty areas. This board reviews and evaluates all healthcare information to ensure it is accurate, reliable, and can be used with complete confidence. And now you have access to the same authoritative, trusted clinical information relied upon by health professionals around the world.
Varicocele

Definition

A varicocele is a widening of the veins along the cord that holds up a man's testicles.

Alternative Names

Varicose veins - scrotum

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

A varicocele forms when valves inside the veins along the spermatic cord prevent blood from flowing properly. This causes the blood to back up, leading to swelling and widening of the veins. (This is essentially the same process that leads to varicose veins, which are common in the legs.)

Varicoceles usually develop slowly. They are more common in men ages 15 - 25 and are most often seen on the left side of the scrotum. Varicoceles are often the cause of infertility in men.

The sudden appearance of a varicocele in an older man may be caused by a kidney tumor, which can block blood flow to a vein. This is more common on the left side than the right.

Symptoms

There may not be symptoms.

Signs and tests

The health care provider will examine the groin area, including the scrotum and testicles. The doctor may be able to feel a nontender, twisted mass along the spermatic cord. (It feels like a bag of worms.)

However, the mass may not be able to be seen or felt, especially when lying down.

The testicle on the side of the varicocele may be smaller than the one on the other side.

Treatment

A scrotal support (jock strap) or snug underwear may provide some relief of the pain or discomfort. If pain continues or other symptoms occur, further treatment may be needed.

Surgery to correct a varicocele is called a varicocelectomy. The surgery is usually done on an outpatient basis. You will receive some type of numbing medication (anesthesia). The urologist will make a cut, usually in the lower abdomen, and tie off the abnormal vein. Blood will now flow around the area into normal veins. Keep an ice pack on the area for the first 24 hours after surgery to reduce swelling.

An alternative to surgery is varicocele embolization. This method is also done on an outpatient basis. However, it uses a much smaller cut than surgery, so you heal faster. A small hollow tube called a catheter (tube) is placed into a vein in your groin or neck area.

Using x-rays as a guide, the health care provider moves the tube into the varicocele. A tiny coil passes through the tube into the varicocele. The coil blocks blood flow to the bad vein, and sends it to normal veins.

After the procedures, you will be told to place ice on the area and wear a scrotal support for a little while. Complications from treatment may include:

  • Atrophic testis
  • Blood clot formation
  • Infection
  • Injury to the scrotal tissue or nearby blood vessel

Support Groups

Expectations (prognosis)

A varicocele is usually harmless and often requires no treatment. If surgery is required because of infertility or testicular wasting away (atrophy), the sperm count will likely improve but the ultimate pregnancy rate is unchanged. In most cases, testicular wasting (atrophy) does not improve unless surgery is done early in adolescence.

Complications

Calling your health care provider

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you discover a testicle lump or need to treat a diagnosed varicocele.

Prevention

References

Khera M, Lipshultz LI. Evolving approach to the varicocele. Urol Clin North Am. 2008;35:183-189.

Schneck FX, Bellinger MF. Abnormalities of the testes and scrotum and their surgical management. In: Wein AJ, ed. Campbell-Walsh Urology. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 127.

View Spanish Version

Encyclopedia Home
Drug Note Home
Health Information Home

Images

Care Points
    Read More

    Review Date: 9/22/2009

    Review By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine; Louis S. Liou, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Urology, Department of Surgery, Boston University School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

    The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- 2010 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

    www.adam.com
    www.mercyweb.org
    follow us online
    facebook youtube


    Contact us
    Home  |  Sitemap

    Disclaimer & Terms of Use  |  Privacy Statement  |  Notice of Privacy Practices
    Copyright ©2013 Mercy. Last modified 2/16/2011