What are varicoceles of the testicles?
A varicocele refers to the swelling of one of the veins inside the scrotum. This group of veins carries blood from the testicles back to the heart. About 15% of men have some form of varicoceles, and the risk of the condition increases with age. Varicoceles are often discovered during fertility checks and can present as a soft bump on the left side of the scrotum. Other symptoms include dull pain and heaviness in the scrotum, especially after physical activity. Common causes include injury, STIs, scarring from previous surgery, or infections.
Do varicoceles cause infertility?
Varicoceles is one of the common causes of male infertility. About 1 in 3 men suffering from infertility have the condition. The swollen veins prevent proper blood drainage. A lack of drainage may create a warm environment around the testicles. This warmth may affect sperm count and quality. Don’t worry; not all cases of varicoceles affect sperm production. Some cases are harmless and show no symptoms. However, if conceiving is an issue, a varicocele may be the reason.
Getting things under control
Pain, swelling, discomfort, and trouble conceiving are all reasons to see a doctor. The doctor will confirm a varicocele via a physical test and ultrasound. If left untreated, the condition can damage the testicles or lead to long-term infertility. Varicoceles can be corrected via a varicocelectomy. Varicocelectomy involves using a microscope and small tools to cut away the swollen veins, leaving the arteries intact. This procedure is minimally invasive, meaning the patient can leave the same day.
Your fertility after surgery
Varicocele surgery has a short recovery time and a high success rate. Most men see significant improvement in sperm quality and sperm count. Some are able to conceive within a few months. However, the improvement depends on the overall baseline of sperm count and quality. The procedure may improve sperm count enough to perform assisted reproductive technologies (ART) like IUI or IVF.
Understanding male fertility
Varicocele is just one of several reasons why men would struggle with infertility. To increase the chances of pregnancy, healthy men should have a healthy sperm count of at least 15 million sperm per milliliter of semen. Sperm quality includes a healthy sperm shape and the ability to move effectively. If one or more of these present an issue, pregnancy can be difficult.
Take varicocele seriously
Men trying to get pregnant after 12 months without success may be infertile. There are different reasons, but swollen veins in the scrotum, known as varicoceles, can impact fertility. These veins can create an environment that hampers sperm count and quality. If treated early with a simple, non-invasive surgery, there can be an improvement in fertility. Speak with a urologist or reproductive specialist who can advise the best course of action.