by Sonja Lyons
A varicocele is swelling in the scrotum associated with the backup of blood in the testicular vein.
A varicocele is caused by a problem in the main vein of the testicle. Blood normally leaves the testicle through the spermatic vein. When this vein is not working properly, the blood gets backed up and the veins bulge.
Risk Factors TOP
Varicoceles typically develop in men 15-25 years old. There are no specific factors that increase your risk of getting varicoceles.
Varicoceles may not always have symptoms. When they do appear, symptoms may include:
Varicoceles may cause the testicle to be smaller. It may also contribute to male infertility by reducing sperm quality and/or quantity.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Varicoceles are usually easily diagnosed by exam. Your doctor may recommend tests to confirm varicoceles or rule out other conditions.
Tests may include:
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment is not required for all varicoceles. Treatment is generally recommended if a varicocele is causing infertility, change in testicle size, or if it is causing pain.
Options may include one or more of the following:
To help ease discomfort, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter pain relievers. In some cases, you may need to wear supportive or athletic underwear.
Surgical treatment options include:
There are no current guidelines to prevent varicoceles.
Reproductive Facts—American Society for Reproductive Medicine
Urology Care Foundation
The College of Family Physicians of Canada
Khera M, Lipshultz LI. Evolving approach to the varicocele. Urol Clin North Am. 2008;35(2):183-189.
Painless scrotal mass. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/genitourinary-disorders/symptoms-of-genitourinary-disorders/painless-scrotal-mass. Updated March 2017. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Robinson SP, Hampton LJ, Koo HP. Treatment strategy for the adolescent varicocele. Urol Clin North Am. 2010;37(2):269-278.
Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Report on vericocele and infertility: A committee opinion. Fertil Steril. 2014;102(6):1556-1560.
Varicocele in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed... . Updated January 29, 2016. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Varicocele. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated February 2017. Accessed March 8, 2018.
Varicoceles. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed March 8, 2018.
Wampler SM, Llanes M. Common scrotal and testicular problems. Prim Care. 2010;37(3):613-629.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrienne Carmack, MD
Last Updated: 1/1/2014
EBSCO Information Services is fully accredited by URAC. URAC is an independent, nonprofit health care accrediting organization dedicated to promoting health care quality through accreditation, certification and commendation.
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at email@example.com. Our Health Library Support team will respond to your email request within 2 business days.