What is a Varicocele?

A varicocele is a collection of enlarged (dilated) veins (blood vessels) in the scrotum. It occurs next to and above one or both of the testes (testicles). Normally, you cannot see or feel the veins in the spermatic cord that carry the blood from the testes. If you have a varicocele, the veins become bigger (they enlarge or dilate) and this makes them more prominent. It is similar to varicose veins of the legs. The size of a varicocele can vary. A large varicocele is sometimes said to look and feel like ‘a bag of worms’ in the scrotum.

Varicoceles are common. About 1 in 7 men develop a varicocele – usually between the ages of 15 and 25. Varicoceles are usually painless and usually cause no symptoms. A small number of affected men notice a ‘dragging’ feeling or slight discomfort from their varicocele.

Studies have shown that there is a higher rate of infertility in men with a varicocele compared to those who do not have a varicocele. However, most men with varicoceles are not infertile. It is just that the chance of being infertile is increased if you have a varicocele.

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