Varicoceles are types of varicose veins that develop within the scrotum, a sac positioned behind the penis that carries the testicles. Varicose veins occur when the veins become larger than normal, often as a result of abnormal blood flow within the veins. Varicoceles are often found in the left portion of the scrotum. Varicoceles usually start to develop when boys or men are between the ages of 15 and 25 years old, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. The condition is more common among boys than men because boys often need higher levels of blood to help with their testicular development, according to the Nemours Foundation. An increase in blood flow to the testicles also means more blood flowing through surrounding veins. Boys with family members who have had varicoceles have an increased risk of developing the condition.
Sometimes varicoceles can become so enlarged that others notice the varicose veins, even when boys are wearing clothing. Affected structures, such as the scrotum, can become enlarged or develop non-harmful growths. Varicoceles can cause the scrotum to seem heavy. In rare cases, boys with varicoceles feel mild or sharp forms of pain, which usually last a short period of time. Boys often experience this type of pain when they are doing an activity, such as moving around or sitting, for a prolonged period of time.
Varicoceles in boys sometimes causes a decrease in the size of boys’ testicles, which can affect their ability to produce sperm. The testicles can become smaller in boys with varicoceles because the increase in blood in the veins causes damage to the functions of the testicles. In certain cases, only one testicle will be affected by varicoceles, which will cause it to be smaller in size than the other testicle. If boys do not get treatment for varicoceles when the varicose veins start to affect testicle growth, they could suffer from infertility later in life. This means that they will not be able to conceive children.
Prognosis and Treatment
Most boys do not suffer any permanent effects because of a varicocele; the structure and function of their testicles and scrotums usually remain normal after varicoceles develop. Varicoceles in boys usually are not considered dangerous, but they can hinder the development of young men’s testicles. If varicoceles do not affect surrounding structures, doctors will usually not administer treatments to boys because the varicose veins are not considered a serious condition. When varicoceles do not pose an immediate risk to boys, doctors often monitor patients’ conditions with regular checkups.
Some male adults and teens, especially those who are at risk for becoming infertile, can undergo surgery to restore normal blood flow to the scrotum. During the surgery, their doctors tie off varicoceles, which helps keep blood from going into the veins. Patients can develop blood clots or infections after getting varicocelectomy surgery. Another surgery for varicocele involves placement of a catheter inside a vein, such as a vein within the neck, which can help to keep blood from going to the varicocele. Boys can reduce the amount of pain they are experiencing in their scrotums because of varicoceles by regularly wearing underwear or jock straps.
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“Varicocele,” Nemours Foundation, https://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/varicocele.html#
“Varicocele,” Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/Varicocele/DS00618
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