Varicocele and Infertility: Causes,Symptoms & Treatment

Varicocele and Infertility

A couple who is trying to have a baby for a while now can understand that having children is not that easy. There could be various issues for not being able to conceive, infertility being one of them. In men, varicocele is one of the main reasons why for infertility. This article tells you about varicocele and how it affects fertility levels in men.

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 its chances of developing at a later stage are not unheard of.

Can Varicocele Cause Infertility?

Varicocele leads to infertility because it affects the production of sperms. Some of the reasons as to how varicoceles cause infertility are listed below.

1. Reduced sperm count

Sperm can survive only when the temperature is slightly lower than 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.

Diagrammatic representation of varicocele


The symptoms of 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 undertaking any heavy physical activity.
  • The pain that occurs while standing will reduce when lying on the back.

If your spouse has experienced any of these symptoms, there is a chance that he might have varicoceles. However, to confirm this, a doctor needs to be consulted. Based on your situation, the doctor will recommend the treatment.

How is Varicocele Diagnosed?

Here’s how varicocele may be diagnosed:

  • 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.
  • Apart from the physical examination, the varicocele can be identified by 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. This form of treatment can help improve 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 for 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 the recovery period in 3 weeks.

3. Varicocele embolization

This method of treatment is less invasive than 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 for mild cases 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 may be hard to have children due to infertility.

But with 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 a couple can be blessed with children.

Also Read: Causes of Infertility in Males

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