Many people have heard of varicose veins and although thousands of women suffer from these unsightly and painful veins in their legs, they are however easy to spot. Varicoceles are exactly the same as varicose veins except they are found in the testicles of men and are caused in the same way; valves inside the vein fail and the blood cannot travel back up to the heart. The resulting blood pools in the veins which then stretches it and enlarges the walls. It is thought that up to 15% of men in the UK are suffering from this condition and may not be aware of it. The problem with varicoceles is that it can cause infertility as the extra blood in the affected veins heats up and keeps the testicles warmer than normal. This means they fail to produce sperm and testosterone and low levels of testosterone have also been linked to erectile dysfunction and a falling sex drive.
Professor Goldstein, a fertility expert who recently published a paper in the British Journal of Urology International, suggests that early surgery is essential when visible signs of varicoceles are present. This is to prevent falling sperm counts and low testosterone levels in the future. He comments “It is far easier to prevent future infertility and low testosterone than it is to cure them once the damage has been done.” One way of detecting them is when a doctor asks you to cough whilst he manipulates them or if they are very progressed they look like a bag of worms.
The operation to remove them is relatively simple although no surgery is without its risks. There is however, a new procedure in which under an X ray, a surgeon will feed a tiny micro tube into the vein and small coils are then injected to block the flow of blood. Once this is done a nearby vein will naturally take over from the collapsed vein to supply the blood. All that is needed is a local anaesthetic which means that patients can attend day surgery and it is quite a painless operation. This new procedure is in keeping with the advanced technology on varicose veins in legs. By using micro surgery, the after effects are minimal, and any complications are significantly reduced. The old way of treating any varicose veins would use a high ligation method of physically tying the vein up in the scrotum which carried a much higher risk of infection and further complications.
It is thought that an estimated half of all men with infertility problems have varicoceles and Professor Goldstein believes that by offering surgery to those affected would reduce the enormous amount of money couples are spending to help their reproduction techniques. As it is a relatively new study it may mean that further reports are needed to prove its validity and results however.