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Varicocele Symptoms

Unfortunately, a varicocele often produces no signs or symptoms. Sometimes, you may feel a pain or discomfort. Other symptoms include:

  • Aching or dragging sensation in the scrotum, groin, or inner thigh

  • Visibly swollen veins

  • Reduced fertility due to impaired sperm formation

  • Testicular atrophy – a small testicle on one side

Over time, varicocele grow and become more noticeable. Varicoceles have sometimes been described as looking like a ‘bag of worms’, and the condition might cause a swollen testicle - usually the left side.

Knowing when it’s time to see a doctor can be tricky, since you may not have any symptoms. As such, varicoceles often require no treatment, unless you are in pain or experiencing issues with fertility. 

However, a swollen testicle is never a good sign, and you should speak with your doctor immediately if you have pain or notice a change in size to your scrotum.

Man with abdomen pain

Safe, effective treatments with less pain and quicker recovery.

Ensure you know all your options prior to invasive surgical treatment, schedule a consult with Dr Shaun Quigley.

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What Causes Varicoceles?

Similar to varicose veins, a varicocele is caused by abnormal vein valves. When leaky, these valves do not return blood back to the heart as they should and this causes a buildup of pressure and therefore swollen veins. They are commoner on the left side of the scrotum as the left testicular vein is more prone to valve problems.

What are the Risk Factors for Developing Varicoceles?

There doesn’t appear to be any significant risk factors for developing varicoceles, and the exact cause is still unclear.

How is a Varicocele Diagnosed?

Diagnosing a varicocele is usually done via a physical examination by your GP or a specialist, such as an Interventional Radiologist or Urologist.

In some cases, your doctor may perform a scrotal ultrasounds, which can help measure the spermatic veins and gives a more detailed, accurate, visual depiction of the condition. 

Once diagnosed, your doctor will classify the condition with one of three grades - 1 being the smallest, and 3 being the largest. The size doesn’t necessarily affect treatment, because you may not need treatment. How you manage varicocele depends on your pain levels or infertility issues.

How to Manage and Treat Varicocele

Many men do not need treatment for their varicocele. For those who have troublesome symptoms and in particular those with potential fertility issues, management options are as follows:

  • Embolisation – where special thin metal coils are used to block the abnormal veins 

  • Surgery – where a cut in the groin or scrotum is used to close of the abnormal veins.

Undoubtedly symptoms are best managed by an individual patient-centred approach and some men would prefer surgery and others embolisation. When you are seen in rooms by the IR specialist you can trust that you will be only offered treatment if it is thought to be your best option.

 

Varicocele Embolisation

Varicocele embolisation is a non-invasive treatment option used to treat enlarged veins in a scrotum. It involves a thin tube introduced via a vein in the neck or groin and navigated to the veins inside the abdomen under x-ray guidance. Once in position special metal coils and sometimes foam are used to close the abnormal veins.

Embolisation is an excellent option if you are troubled by your varicocele but do not want surgery. It does not involve any incisions or cuts on the groin or scrotum and does not need a general or spinal anesthetic. Surgery risks damage to the tube which carries sperm from the testicle. Risks from embolisation are very rare but can include blockage of other normal blood vessels.

Varicocele Embolisation

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I know if I am a candidate? Open or Close

     Email us and we will send you some information forms to complete, or get your GP or specialist to refer you for a consult.

     

    After listening to your symptoms and taking a medical history we will discuss further investigations or scans needed to establish whether you are a candidate

  • What investigations or scans are needed? Open or Close

     This will be discussed at the time of consult but may include an ultrasound of the scrotum


    If there are fertility problems then we will need a letter or copy of notes from the fertility specialist. Should varicocele embolisation be a suitable treatment option for you then further scans required may include:

    • MRI – if the pattern of varicocele is unusual or you have a more complex medical history

  • How long is the procedure? Open or Close

    The treatment takes about 1 hour.

  • Do I need an anesthetic? Open or Close

    Unlike some other treatment options, varicocele embolisation is done using sedation and local anaesthetic. The procedure is not painful.

  • How is varicocele embolisation performed? Open or Close

    This procedure is performed by a specialist interventional radiologist – an expert in this area. Having the procedure performed by a specialist improves the effectiveness and reduces complications. A thin tube is introduced via a vein in the neck or groin and navigated to the veins inside the abdomen under x-ray guidance. Once in position special metal coils and sometimes foam are used to close the abnormal veins.

  • How long will I be in hospital?  Open or Close

    You will stay for a few hours only, until the sedation has fully worn off.

  • What is the recovery period? Open or Close

    You will be able to return to work and other activities the next day. You will have to avoid exercise, heavy lifting etc for 5-7 days.

  • Why should I choose varicocele embolisation? Open or Close

    Embolisation is an excellent option if you are troubled by your varicocele but you do not want surgery. It does not involve any incisions or cuts on the groin or scrotum and does not need a general or spinal anaesthetic. Surgery risks damage to the tube which carries sperm from the testicle. Risks from embolisation are very rare but can include blockage of other normal blood vessels.

  • What is the evidence embolisation works?  Open or Close

    Embolisation is as effective as surgery but without the incision, scar or anaesthetic risks. Effects on pain and fertility are similar across both treatments.

  • Is this treatment for everyone? Open or Close

    No. Some men would prefer the surgical option but many men want to avoid an incision in the groin and do not want to risk damage to the tube carrying the sperm from the testicle.

Safe, effective treatments with less pain and quicker recovery.

Ensure you know all your options prior to invasive surgical treatment, schedule a consult with Dr Shaun Quigley.