doctor and patient

The most common treatment for varicocele is a varicocelectomy, an outpatient procedure that doesn't require a hospital stay.


When was the last time you were in or around a group of men and the topic of their health was front and center? Let's face it: Men don't really like to talk about their health. We all think we're Atlas in some way, strong and indestructible.

All that talk about having to force a man to go to the doctor if he's ill -- is it just an old wives' tale? Doubly difficult to talk about is men's health in regards to the reproductive organs. Take it from this guy, it's not something we readily share with our pals.

Along those lines, infertility can be a tough thing to discuss, and it doesn't rest squarely on the shoulders of the woman. In fact, in about 40 percent of cases of infertility among couples, the man is the sole source or a contributing factor [source: ASRM].

One issue often linked to infertility in men is varicocele, a widening of the veins in the spermatic cords that connect the testicles to the body. When the valves in these veins don't work properly, blood flow is reduced, causing the widening. The condition is similar to varicose veins that occur in legs [source: PubMed Health].

A varicocele typically develops over time and is often found in young men, particularly those ages 15 to 25 [source: PubMed Health]. However, men of any age can develop the condition. Interestingly, almost all instances of varicocele happen on the left spermatic cord, accounting for roughly 78 to 93 percent of reported cases [source: Kantartzi]. Experts think this has to do with anatomical structure. Due to differences in where the left and right veins drain into, more pressure is put on the left spermatic vein, which could lead to varicocele [source: Cornell University].

There are no known factors that could point to a heightened risk of varicocele, genetic or otherwise, and the condition isn't linked to any known syndrome [source: Cornell University]. So could you have the condition? Next we'll take a look at diagnosing varicocele and its implications.