Varicocele, or abnormal enlargement of the veins within the scrotum that drain the testicles, typically develops gradually over time and affects about 15 percent of the male population. Varicoceles can have a negative impact on a patient’s fertility. They can affect the quality of sperm as well as sperm production. In fact, approximately 40 percent of men with male factor infertility are affected by varicoceles. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for varicoceles. At the Houston practice of urologist Larry Lipshultz, varicocelectomy may be performed to address varicoceles.
What Are the Symptoms of Varicoceles?
Many men with varicoceles do not experience symptoms; however, a varicocele may cause a man to feel pain or discomfort in his scrotum. He may also experience a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum resulting from a varicocele. These symptoms may become worse when sitting for extended periods of time. Standing, walking, jogging, running, and other activities may also cause a person to experience worsening discomfort, pain, or heaviness resulting from a varicocele. Patients experiencing physical symptoms of varicoceles may find relief from lying down.
Varicoceles and Fertility
Varicoceles are similar to varicose veins that occur in the leg. Varicoceles can have a major impact on a patient’s reproductive health and can even cause the testicles to shrink. A decrease in the quality of sperm and the production of sperm can result from a varicocele. To address and treat these issues, male fertility surgery, such as varicocelectomy, may be recommended.
Not all patients with varicoceles will need to undergo surgery; however, varicocelectomy is the most commonly performed surgery for male factor infertility. If surgery is recommended, patients should expect to undergo an outpatient procedure that requires approximately four hours. During the procedure, the veins responsible for the varicocele are identified and tied off to prevent blood flow to the varicocele, thereby eliminating the problem. We perform the procedure either through the groin, through the abdomen, or below the groin.
Many men experience improved fertility after varicocelectomy. It is important to note, however, that the relationship between varicoceles and infertility is not well understood, and that while varicoceles may contribute to infertility in some men, they can be present and have no effect on fertility in others. While varicocelectomy is effective in some cases, it is not in others. There is no way to predict whether fertility will be restored through the procedure in advance. However, many men at least find relief from the heaviness and discomfort they felt in their scrotums thanks to the surgery.
The results of surgery are permanent, as the abnormal flow of blood is completely halted through the severance of the responsible veins.
Learn More about Varicocelectomy
To learn more about varicocelectomy and whether you might benefit from the procedure, please contact the practice of Larry Lipshultz, M.D., today. Dr. Lipshultz is one of the preeminent authorities on male factor infertility in the nation, and he would welcome the opportunity to help you find a solution to your fertility problems.