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Trying to get a baby is something that many couples do. While many are successful, some are not and it is largely due to infertility issues. For men, varicocele is one of the main reasons why they infertile. Let us have a look as to what is varicocele and how it affects infertility.
What is Varicocele?
The spermatic cord holds up the testicles and is filled with blood vessels that supply blood to the male reproductive organ. Sometimes these veins get enlargened which reduces the ability of the testicles to produce sperm. While a majority of males who have it are infertile, fifteen per cent of the male population that have varicocele have not reported any fertility issues.
What Causes Varicoceles?
Varicoceles is something similar to a vein issue that many individuals experience in their legs known as varicose veins. While the exact cause remains elusive, the reason for a varicocele to develop is the abnormal pooling of blood that takes place in the veins that are present in the spermatic cord. Varicocele has been observed to take place primarily during adolescence, although developing them at a later date is not unheard of. Additionally, you are likely to find the varicoceles on the left rather than the right due to the asymmetrical alignment of the scrotal sac.
Can Varicocele Cause Infertility?
Varicocele leads to infertility because it affects the production of sperms. Some of the reasons as to how varicoceles causes infertility are listed below.
1. Reduced sperm count
Sperm can survive only when the temperature is slightly lower than the body temperature. The presence of varicocele affects the temperature in the area where the sperm is stored and leads to a decrease in the production of sperms.
2. Damaged motility
The increased temperature affects the speed and capability of the sperm to swim.
3. Damaged sperm DNA
Varicocele also causes an increase in a reactive oxygen species which affects the sperm’s DNA and membrane.
The symptoms for varicocele are difficult to spot for an untrained individual. However, some symptoms of varicoceles that could be identified are listed below.
- One of the testicles will have a lump.
- There may be a mild pain that keeps recurring in your scrotum.
- Pain while standing or when you are undertaking any heavy physical activity.
- The pain that occurs while standing will reduce when you lie on your back.
If you are have experienced any of these symptoms, there is a chance that you have varicoceles. However, to confirm this, you need to meet a doctor and get it diagnosed. Based on your situation, the doctor will recommend the treatment.
How is Varicocele Diagnosed?
If I have varicoceles, am I infertile? This is a question that may be on your mind. Even if this is the case, the treatment for varicocele infertility has a high success rate. So, make sure to get a diagnosis and treat the issue right away. The diagnosis can include many methods. Some of them are:
- If the varicocele is big enough, then the doctor can conduct a physical test which will reveal a non-tender mass right above the testicle.
- If the varicocele is small, then the doctor will make you stand and ask you take a deep breath in and hold it in.
- Apart from the physical examination, the varicocele can be identified by the scrotal ultrasound. This method involves an ultrasound device that is used to check the region for any vein enlargement. This method is non-invasive and can be completed soon.
In many cases, men do not realise that they have varicoceles. This comes to their attention only after discovering that they infertile and run the required tests. However, varicocele treatment is possible through surgical means as well as natural methods. Here are a few of them:
1. Laparoscopic varicocelectomy
This procedure involves identifying the affected veins and using clips to tie them up. More than fifty per cent of the men who have used this form of treatment has shown improved sperm motility. The surgical procedure lasts for about an hour and the recovery time is quick.
2. Microsurgical varicocelectomy
This procedure is similar to the one above except the fact that powerful microscopes are used for identifying and clipping the varicocele. This significantly improves the success rate and problems during surgery are minimised. The operation lasts for about an hour and you can make a full recovery in 3 weeks.
3. Varicocele embolization
This method of treatment is less invasive than a surgery and is primarily used for pain relief. It uses imaging to divert the blood flow away from the varicocele. This is done with the help of a catheter.
4. Natural methods to cure varicocele
Going for surgery isn’t the only option for men who suffer from varicocele. Some home remedies include:
- Consuming herbs like horse chestnut, Alstonia and mukkuti.
- Avoiding alcohol
- Consuming foods with high fibre content
- Vitamin C and Vitamin E supplements
It is always a joy to have children and start a family. But for some couples, it just seems like an impossible option. Infertility is an issue that has created many problems for couples emotionally and mentally.
With the many different medical options available these days, there could be possibilities to treat the issue. Thanks to science and technology, health issues such as varicoceles that can cause infertility are treatable, and families can be blessed with children.
Also Read: Causes of Infertility in Males