Your doctor will conduct a physical exam, which might reveal a nontender mass above your testicle that feels like a bag of worms. If it’s large enough, your doctor will be able to feel it.
If you have a smaller varicocele, your doctor might ask you to stand, take a deep breath and hold it while you bear down (Valsalva maneuver). This helps your doctor detect abnormal enlargement of the veins.
If the physical exam is inconclusive, your doctor might order a scrotal ultrasound. This test, which uses high-frequency sound waves to create precise images of structures inside your body, might be used to ensure there isn’t another reason for your symptoms. In certain cases, further imaging might be recommended to rule out other causes for the varicocele, such as a tumor compressing the spermatic vein.
Varicocele treatment might not be necessary. Many men with varicoceles are able to father a child without any treatment. However, if your varicocele causes pain, testicular atrophy or infertility or if you are considering assisted reproductive techniques, you might want to undergo varicocele repair.
The purpose of surgery is to seal off the affected vein to redirect the blood flow into normal veins. In cases of male infertility, treatment of a varicocele might improve or cure the infertility or improve the quality of sperm if techniques such as in vitro fertilization (IVF) are to be used.
Clear indications to repair a varicocele in adolescence include progressive testicular atrophy, pain or abnormal semen analysis results. Although treatment of a varicocele generally improves sperm characteristics, it’s not clear if an untreated varicocele leads to progressive worsening of sperm quality over time.
Varicocele repair presents relatively few risks, which might include:
- Buildup of fluid around the testicles (hydrocele)
- Recurrence of varicoceles
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