Varicoceles do not normally cause any symptoms. But they can sometimes lead to swelling, tension or pain in the testicles.
Varicoceles are quite common. Around 15% of all men have a varicocele at some point in their life.
It is thought that varicoceles can affect fertility. Varicoceles are fairly common in men who have fertility problems. It is estimated that around 25% of all men with poor sperm quality have a varicocele. But varicoceles don’t always affect fertility: Many men with varicoceles do not have fertility problems.
Larger varicoceles can be detected just by touch. These are referred to as palpable varicoceles. Smaller varicoceles can only be found using ultrasound (sonography).
The treatment involves “shutting down” the affected vein so that the blood flows through healthy, neighboring veins instead. This can be done by blocking the vein using minimally-invasive procedures (embolization) or by performing varicose vein surgery. In embolization, the affected vein is blocked using a catheter to inject either a solution that causes scarring (sclerotherapy), a tissue adhesive, or a detachable balloon or coil. In surgery, the swollen vein and the surrounding smaller veins are either cut or tied.
Kroese AC, de Lange NM, Collins J, Evers JL. Surgery or embolization for varicoceles in subfertile men. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2012; (10): CD000479.
We checked whether this information was still up-to-date in April 2016. No new research results were found that would have made it necessary to change the conclusions stated above.