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Varicocele is a common condition that affects men, and it occurs when the veins that run through the scrotum become enlarged or dilated.
It is similar to the varicose veins that occur in the legs but affects the veins that drain the testicles. Varicocele can occur in any man, but it is more common in those between the ages of 15 and 35 years.
Symptoms of Varicocele
Most men with a varicocele do not experience any symptoms, and the condition is usually discovered during a routine physical examination or fertility testing. However, some men may experience symptoms such as:
- A lump or bulge in the scrotum
- A dull ache or discomfort in the scrotum, especially when standing or sitting for long periods
- Testicular atrophy or shrinkage
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Causes of Varicocele
The exact cause of varicocele is not known, but it is believed to be caused by a malfunctioning valve in the veins that regulate blood flow from the testicles. The valve allows blood to flow back into the testicular veins, causing them to enlarge and become dilated.
Varicocele is more common in men with certain risk factors, such as:
- Family history of varicocele
- Congenital abnormalities of the veins
- Increased pressure on the veins in the scrotum due to heavy lifting or prolonged standing or sitting
Diagnosis of Varicocele
A varicocele is usually diagnosed during a physical examination by a Doctor. During the exam, the Doctor will ask the patient to stand and examine the scrotum for any lumps or bulges.
Your Doctor may also perform a test called a “Valsalva maneuver,” which involves the patient exhaling while bearing down, to check for any enlargement or dilation of the veins in the scrotum.
If your doctor suspects varicocele, they may order an ultrasound to confirm the diagnosis and rule out any other underlying conditions.
Treatment of Varicocele
Most men with a varicocele do not require treatment, and the condition does not cause any long-term health problems. However, men who experience discomfort or infertility may benefit from treatment.
The most common treatment for varicocele is surgery, which involves tying off the enlarged veins or redirecting blood flow to healthier veins. Surgery is usually performed on an outpatient basis, and most men can return to normal activities within a week.
Another treatment option is embolization, which involves blocking the affected veins with a small coil or plug. Embolization is less invasive than surgery, but it is not as effective in treating varicocele.
Prevention of Varicocele
There is no known way to prevent varicocele, but men can reduce their risk by:
- Avoiding prolonged standing or sitting
- Wearing supportive underwear or a jockstrap during physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly
- Avoiding activities that put excessive pressure on the veins in the scrotum, such as heavy lifting
Varicocele is a common condition that affects men, and it occurs when the veins that run through the scrotum become enlarged or dilated. Most men with a varicocele do not experience any symptoms, but those who do may experience discomfort or infertility.
Treatment is usually not necessary, but men who experience symptoms may benefit from surgery or embolization. Men can reduce their risk of varicocele by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and avoiding activities that put excessive pressure on the veins in the scrotum.
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