Overview and Symptoms of Varicocele
A varicocele is a varicose vein in the scrotum. It is the enlargement of the veins along the spermatic cord which support the testicles. If the small valves in the blood vessels are not working properly or are compressed it will cause the blood to back up and cause thickening or widening of the veins. This is essentially what happens in varicose veins located in the legs. They are most common in men aged between 15 and 30 years of age. They develop slowly over an extended period of time and are usually seen on the left side of the scrotal sac. Varicoceles are usually painless and do not require treatment. The physician will examine the scrotum, and if a varicocele is present it may feel like a sac of spaghetti.
If an older male notices the sudden formation of a varicocele it may indicate a kidney problem. Again this is usually seen on the left side. If this is the case they should see their doctor as soon as possible. One possible side-effect of a varicocele is infertility or reduced infertility. It is possible to have surgery to correct this problem, and if you do, it is same day surgery, so you will be home the same day as you went into the hospital. Remember, if you discover any swelling of your scrotum or a lump, consult your health care professional.
Sometimes a varicocele can be assumed if the patient performs a straining maneuver as if he is having a bowel movement. This is intended to create added pressure and increase dilation of the blood vessels. The testicle that is affected may or not be, smaller or larger than the unaffected teste on the other side. When lying down the varicocele may not be noticeable at all, due to a lack of abdominal pressure, and therefore the blood vessels will not dilate.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Varicoceles
Varicoceles can reliably be detected using ultrasound, and if the machine has a Doppler function, even better. The Doppler function can measure the speed of flow in a blood vessel and back flow of blood. Color sonography is the most reliable method of detection of abnormalities, because quite often the right side is not diagnosed through a physical examination, color sonography and a skilled radiologist will eliminate this.
Studies have suggested that varicoceles are bilateral in nature, that is; they can affect both testicles. Various procedures are available to correct a varicocele. They include; Varicocelectomy – the surgical procedure where an incision is made in the groin, below the groin or through the abdomen and correction is carried out. Emobilization – this is a minimally invasive treatment, whereby a small wire is passed through a peripheral vein and obstructs the veins, so that abdominal pressure is not passed to the testicles.