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Risk Factors for Varicocele

written by: ssvalerio • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 3/30/2011

Varicocele of the testicles is sometimes compared to as having a varicose vein in the leg. Learn about this condition, including risk factors for varicocele.

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    A varicocele occurs when veins inside the scrotum have dilated, becoming abnormally distended and enlarged. This is comparable to a varicose vein that might develop in the leg. Veins usually tolerate a flow to project in one direction, and permitting the blood to channel from the testicle without returning. If there happens to be a varicocele, blood returns to the testicle instead of moving continuously away. This can cause an alteration in the testicle’s blood flow, raise the temperature of the testicle, and modify the production of sperm. Most often there are no major problematic complications of varicocele. Yet, varicoceles can sometimes be the root or origin of a low production of sperm and its quality. In addition, varicoceles can also be the reason testicles tend to shrink. The majority of varicoceles progress over time. Luckily, most varicoceles can be simple to identify and can be surgically repaired if there should be an indication of problems.

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    Causes and Risk Factors for Varicocele

    A male’s spermatic cord transports blood within his testicles. Although it’s not certain what causes varicoceles, most specialists believe a varicocele forms when blood is not flowing accordingly inside the vein of the cord's valves. The result of a backup can cause the veins to expand.

    Varicoceles usually form during the pubescent years and are considered common. For example, nearly 15 percent of the male population have them. Although varicoceles account for about 40 percent of male infertility cases, not all men with them have experienced infertility.

    Varicoceles might often form on the left side, and this might be due to the position of the vein in the left testicle. Still, a varicocele that has formed on one testicle might disturb sperm production within both testicles.

    Risk factors for varicocele include being between age 15 and 25 years old, having kidney cancer, or experiencing a testicular or scrotal injury.

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    Symptoms and When to See a Doctor

    Usually the varicocele will not exhibit symptoms or indicators. They seldom cause pain. The pain might be heaviness or a dull awkwardness. The pain might even increase over long periods or with frequent standing or sitting. The discomfort might get worse throughout the day. In addition, varicoceles could grow and become more obvious or noticeable over time.

    Since a varicocele typically projects no indicators or symptomatic health concerns, it will often be revealed during a routine physical exam or a fertility evaluation. If pain or swelling in the scrotum is experienced, or if a mass is found on the scrotum, contact your doctor. There are a number of reasons that can contribute to testicular pain or scrotal mass, and many of those conditions might require immediate treatment.

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    References

    Mayo Clinic: Varicocele http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/Varicocele

    Baby Med: Varicocele—Causes and Risk Factors http://www.babymed.com/faq/content.aspx%3F14551

    Baby Med: Varicocele, What is it? http://www.babymed.com/faq/content.aspx%3F14621

    Free Med: Varicocele, Risk Factors http://www.freemd.com/varicocele/risk-factors.htm