Varicocele

Alternative Names

Varicose veins – scrotum

Definition of Varicocele

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

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 , which are common in the legs.)

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.)

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.

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.

Review

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. – 9/22/2009

Varicocele
Male reproductive system

ADAM Medical Encyclopedia

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