Varicocele, an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum, is a common condition affecting about 15% of all men, although it may go unnoticed. Like varicose veins that people generally experience in their legs, varicoceles often have no symptoms.
However, when men do experience symptoms, they can include discomfort, fertility issues, and pain. In fact, 40% of men with fertility issues have varicoceles.
At South Florida Vascular Associates, with offices in Boynton Beach, Plantation, and Coconut Creek, Florida, board-certified vascular interventional physician William H. Julien, MD, offers varicocele embolization, a minimally invasive outpatient procedure to treat your enlarged veins effectively.
Here, Dr. Julien explains the primary source of varicocele, its causes, and its symptoms.
What causes varicocele?
Your scrotum holds your testicles, and properly working veins within the skin carry depleted blood from your testicles to your heart. Valves in your veins stop blood from flowing in the wrong direction, keeping your blood moving in the right direction toward the heart.
Faulty, weak, or damaged valves in your testicular veins can cause the blood to succumb to gravity and pool. As a result, the veins may swell and appear twisted with the fullness of the blood.
Varicoceles, essentially enlarged veins, typically appear on the left side of your scrotum but can occasionally affect the right or both sides simultaneously. They usually form during puberty and develop gradually over time.
Varicocele signs and symptoms
Varicoceles aren’t dangerous and often don’t present any noticeable symptoms. However, they can interfere with testosterone production and fertility. Some common signs and symptoms when varicocele appears include:
- Visible swollen veins
- Discomfort, a dull ache, or pain
- Shrinking in your testicles
- A lump above the affected testicle(s)
If you notice these symptoms, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Treatment options for varicocele
Your treatment options depend on the severity of your symptoms. In many cases, no treatment is necessary. For minor cases of varicoceles, treatment options include:
- Wearing tighter underwear
- Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories
Surgery or varicocele embolization are your options for more severe cases that cause pain or infertility. Minimally invasive embolization is the preferred treatment for men with a varicocele who want to improve or preserve their fertility.
During an embolization, which is an outpatient procedure, Dr. Julien makes a small incision to insert a small catheter, or thin tube, into the groin or into a vein in the neck. He uses an X-ray to guide the catheter into the varicocele and then closes off the vein. Your body reroutes blood to another vein.
Varicocele embolization is a painless and quick procedure — about 30 minutes — with a short recovery time. You can return to moderate activity immediately.
While you may not always need to treat your varicocele, you should make an appointment with Dr. Julien if you suspect you have this condition to learn more about treatment options, especially if you’re trying to have children. Call South Florida Vascular Associates to make an appointment, or request one online.