Varicocele and Male Fertility

Diagnosing Varicocele

If you've experienced potential infertility, you may be wondering, "Could I have varicocele?"

First things first: Self-diagnosis won't necessarily work. You'd need to see a health care professional.

Back to the stereotype of men not going to doctors. Unfortunately it's based on reality: In a given year, men are 24 percent less likely than women to seek a doctor's help [source: AHRQ]. As a general piece of advice to men, go against the grain and visit your doctor when you think something's going on.

Varicocele is two to three times more likely to be diagnosed in men seeking fertility treatment, meaning they would be screened for the condition by a professional [source: Kantartzi]. This of course doesn't mean men without fertility issues couldn't have the condition. It just breaks down to which men are actually being checked for varicocele.

It's not impossible to tell on your own if you have a varicocele, but there are varying stages of severity. In what are considered grades I and II of the condition, the veins are small to medium in size and not easily visible on inspection. An ultrasound or other imaging technique can be used to better diagnose a grade I or II varicocele [source: Cornell University].

A grade III varicocele is much larger and noticeable to the human eye. Again, the vein runs along the spermatic cord, holding the testicle to the body. If a varicocele is at grade III, it may feel like a bag of worms in the scrotum [source: PubMed Health]. Gross sounding, yes, but not as serious as it may seem.

In fact, a varicocele is usually not considered dangerous and can be left untreated. But if it causes discomfort, or if infertility has been a problem, a man could consider treatment to correct the problem.

On the next page we'll take a look at treatment options and their effect on fertility.