What is a varicocele?
A varicocele is an enlargement of the veins within the scrotum (the loose bag of skin that contains the testicles). It occurs due to poor functioning of valves within the veins. This condition causes blood to back up and create swelling.
Varicoceles may or may not cause symptoms. Some men may experience a dull achy pain from this issue. Other men have no physical symptoms. However, our Austin fertility center team knows that some of these men may develop fertility issues.
Having a varicocele is common
Approximately 10-15% of men have varicoceles, and about 40% of men with infertility have one. However, it’s important to note that most men with varicoceles do not have fertility issues. The exact effect of this issue on fertility is controversial.
Varicoceles occur more often on the left side of the scrotum. This is because the male reproductive system isn’t completely symmetrical.
The treatment of a varicocele depends on a number of factors
If a man is experiencing pain with a varicocele, he should talk to an experienced urologist (a specialist in the male reproductive system) for surgical repair.
However, a man with fertility issues and a varicocele will need to consider multiple factors before deciding on the best choice. Surgical repair of a varicocele in a male fertility patient should only be considered in certain cases.
- The varicocele is of significant size
- The female partner has normal fertility or easily treatable fertility issues
- Time to conception is not a significant concern
- Sperm testing is abnormal
If a man does not have all of these factors, then surgical treatment of a varicocele may not be appropriate. It may be more beneficial to focus on fertility treatments at our Austin fertility center such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The overall complication rate from a varicocele repair is low. It may take three to six months after a varicocele repair to see maximum results on sperm testing. Though most studies show an improvement in sperm parameters after a varicocele repair, some studies do not show a significant improvement in sperm parameters after a varicocele is repaired.
Alternatively, if a couple decides to proceed with IUI or IVF, they may have a faster time to conception. The exact success rates depend on other fertility factors, especially the woman’s age.
If you have been diagnosed with a varicocele and suffer from infertility, it is critical to speak with the team at our Austin fertility center to get the best advice for your specific case. Contact us to schedule an appointment.
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Chizhong Wang*, Ji-won Choi*, Leonardo F. Urbanoy†, Puneet Massonz‡, Matthew VerMilyea§, and Moshe Kam*; Tracking of Human Sperm in Time-Lapse Images. *Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, New Jersey Institute of Technology, Newark, NJ, USA, †70 Beharrel St., Concord, MA, USA, ‡Penn Fertility Care, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA, §Ovation Fertility, Austin, TX, USA.