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A varicocele is an abnormal enlargement in the scrotum. The varicocele occurs when the valves within the veins do not work properly. This is essentially the same process as varicose veins. A majority of varicoceles occur on the left side.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: Wikipedia)

About Varicoceles

Varicocele is the medical term for varicose veins in the scrotum. Varicoceles form in the veins that run along the spermatic cord. Blood from the testicles flows back into the body along those veins. Varicoceles form in a similar way to varicose veins in the legs, where blood builds up in the veins causing permanent swelling.

Varicoceles do not normally cause any symptoms, but swelling, tension or pain in the testicles can sometimes occur as a result.

Varicoceles are quite common. Around 15% of all men have a varicocele during their life.

It is thought that a varicocele can affect fertility. Men with low fertility often have varicoceles. It is estimated that around 25% of all men with poor quality sperm have a varicocele. However, it does not always affect fertility and many men with varicoceles do not have fertility problems... Read more about Varicocele

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Effectiveness and safety of microscopic varicocelectomy versus Palomo surgery for varicocele: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Jin P, Yang L Y, Peng Y G.  Effectiveness and safety of microscopic varicocelectomy versus Palomo surgery for varicocele: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2009; 9(6): 674-680

Effectiveness and safety of laparoendoscopic single-site surgery for varicocele: a meta-analysis

Bibliographic details: Lu CZ, Xiao EL, Wang ZP.  Effectiveness and safety of laparoendoscopic single-site surgery for varicocele: a meta-analysis. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2014; 14(1): 59-64 Available from: http://www.cjebm.org.cn/en/oa/DArticle.aspx?type=view&id=20140107

Effect of surgical repair on testosterone production in infertile men with varicocele: a meta-analysis

OBJECTIVES: To determine the effect of surgical varicocele repair in improving testicular Leydig cell function as shown by increased testosterone production.

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Summaries for consumers

Varicoceles: Does varicocele treatment improve fertility in men?

Some experts think that varicoceles can affect fertility in men. If men with a palpable varicocele and poor sperm quality have treatment, the chances of their partner becoming pregnant could possibly improve.

Surgery or embolization for varicoceles in subfertile men

Varicocele is a dilatation (enlargement) of the veins along the spermatic cord (the cord suspending the testis) in the scrotum. Dilatation occurs when valves within the veins along the spermatic cord fail and allow retrograde blood flow, causing a backup of blood. The mechanisms by which varicocele might affect fertility have not yet been explained, and neither have the mechanisms by which surgical treatment of the varicocele might restore fertility. This review analysed 10 studies (894 participants) and found evidence (combined odds ratio was 1.47 (95% CI 1.05 to 2.05) to suggest an increase in pregnancy rates after varicocele treatment compared to no treatment in subfertile couples, in whom, apart from poor sperm quality, varicocele in the man was the only abnormal finding. This means that 17 men would need to be treated to achieve one additional pregnancy. However, findings were inconclusive as the quality of the available evidence was very low and more research is needed with live birth or pregnancy rate as the primary outcome.

Varicoceles: Overview

Fertility can be affected by a number of different things. One possible cause is varicose veins in the scrotum, called varicoceles. They are quite common. Read on to find out about treatment options and who can benefit from treatment.

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Terms to know

In males, the external sac that contains the testicles.
Spermatic Cord (Testicular Cord)
A cord-like structure in the male reproductive system that contains nerves, blood and lymph vessels, and the vas deferens (a coiled tube that carries sperm out of the testicle). It runs from the abdomen to the testicle, and connects to the testicle in the scrotum (external sac). Also called testicular cord.
Testicles (Testes)
One of two egg-shaped glands inside the scrotum that produce sperm and male hormones. Also called testicle.
Varicose Veins
Varicose veins are swollen, twisted veins that you can see just under the surface of the skin. These veins usually occur in the legs, but they also can form in other parts of the body.

More about Varicocele

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Other terms to know: See all 4
Scrotum, Spermatic Cord (Testicular Cord), Testicles (Testes)

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