How Does Varicocele Contribute to Male Infertility?

by Cheryl Powers

The word Varicocele is a name that you may not be familiar with because most men with it may not even know if they have it. It is a term used to refer to enlarged veins found in the scrotum. These veins can be found on 15% of the male population and usually accounts for 40% of men who are experiencing primary male infertility issues.

Varicocele also affects 80% of men who are experiencing secondary male infertility issues mostly those who have already sired children. Simply put varicocele are just varicose veins found in the scrotum of a man. When the veins in the scrotum get enlarged the consequence is often a decrease in sperm production and also quality. This usually occurs as a result of an increment of the temperatures in the scrotum occasioned by the abnormality of the varicocele veins.

In other cases, there have been reports of the testicles shrinking due to varicocele. It is said that the varicose veins usually disrupt the normal functioning of the testicles. What happens is that varicose veins usually interfere with the normal heating and cooling system in the testicles consequently affecting the developing sperms there and this is what leads to male infertility issue.

How can Varicocele be Diagnosed?

All About Varicocele and Infertility

The condition can be diagnosed by physical examination when the patient is standing and a well trained physician should be able to identify the varicocele.

A patient can be subjected to exercise or prolonged standing to try and diagnose the varicose veins on the scrotum. It often becomes difficult to palpate a varicocele if the scrotal wall is thick on in contracted condition. There are cases of benign fat referred to as lipoma of the cord feeling like a varicocele.

You can distinguish the two simply by asking the patient to lie down and if it is lipoma fat it will not disappear. Varicocele veins usually disappear when the affected man lies down.

Varicocele is graded depending on severity usually on a 1-3 scale. In varicocele 1 it is impossible to see it or feel it without the use of medical equipments and procedures like ultra sound. The grade 1 varicocele is considered by doctors as not any serious to health.

The grade 2 varicocele is easy to be felt on the hand by palpation of the testicles. Grade 3 varicocele can be seen easily by the eye during a physical examination.

Health experts agree that it is only graded 2 and 3 varicoceles that are implicated in male infertility problems.

When is it time for you to treat your Varicocele?

Men who have undergone infertility testing should consider treatment of varicocele when they have met the following situations:

  • When it is apparent that their varicoceles are grade 2 and 3.
  • When the man is suffering from infertility.
  • When the female partner of the man does not suffer from any infertility issue.
  • When the man has got abnormal sperm parameters.

It is important to have varicocele treated because it has been established that even though men with the condition can still have babies the condition is damaging to male fertility. Varicoceles can cause impaired sperm quality, a decrement to testicular volume, and also a decline in the Leydig cell function.

Medical research has established that varicoceles can actually cause progressive testicular damage with time if left unchecked. The best thing for men to do is go for varicocele diagnosis to establish if they are having the problem and have it addressed by qualified physicians in the field.

Below are the treatments options for varicocele explained in detail and your physician should be able to decide for you the best option that will suit your unique needs.

What are the Treatment Options for Varicocele?

  • Surgery is a treatment option for varicocele and it can be done even on an outpatient basis. In this case a microscope is used to observe the varicose veins in the scrotum and then the veins that supply blood to the varicocele are then cut to stop blood flow there.
  • There is also another treatment procedure where surgery is not involved it is called percutaneous embolization. In this procedure, a small catheter is inserted to the varicocele and then blocked by use of interventional radiology technique involving a balloon or coil.

NOTE: Repairing varicocele does come with some risks but chances of complications arising thereafter are very minimal. Microsurgical approaches for vericocele however have shown to have minimal complication rates when compared to non-microsurgical processes.

A number of studies suggest that that there is usually advancement in semen parameters and fertility after a varicocele has been repaired. Such improvements are usually seen in about three to six months after repairing of the varicocele.