Varicocele is a widening of blood vessels in the scrotum. The scrotum is the pouch that contains the testes in males.
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Most blood normally flows out of the scrotum through a main vein. A series of valves helps the blood move through the veins. If a valve is not working well blood can backup in the vein and stretch it out. Over time the vein widens because of the constant pressure.
Varicoceles typically develop in males 15-25 years old.
You will be able to see or feel a varicocele. It is an enlarged or twisted vein in the scrotum. It may become larger when standing or straining. You may also see shrinkage of the testicles.
You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor can make the diagnosis based on the physical exam.
An ultrasound may be done if complications are expected.
Treatment is not required in all cases.
Treatment may be done to block off the faulty vein and allow blood to flow out through other veins.
- Open surgery—The vein is surgically cut and tied off.
- Catheter ablation—Heat is applied through a catheter to destroy the vein.
- Catheter embolization—A substance is placed in the vein to block it.
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
Tekgul S, Riedmiller H, et al. Varicocele in children and adolescents. Guidelines on paediatric urology. European Association of Urology. 2009;23-25.
Varicocele in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115197/Varicocele-in-children-and-adolescents. Updated October 2, 2017. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Varicocele. Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/varicocele.html. Updated February 2017. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Varicoceles. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: http://www.urologyhealth.org/urology/index.cfm?article=116. Accessed March 20, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD Last Updated: 5/5/2014