Varicocele and Testosterone levels – how are they associated?

varicocele embolization

The function of veins in a human body is to collect blood from various organs back to the heart. Valves in the veins ensure that the blood flows in the proper direction. Varicocele is a term used to describe the abnormally dilated veins in the scrotum. 

When the valves in the testicular vein which originate in the testicle turn faulty, blood starts pooling and collects in the scrotum. Studies theorize that the increased blood flow leads to higher intratesticular temperature which is the main cause of impaired sperm in varicoceles. Though the precise cause of varicocele is not known, it is thought to develop from a backup of venous blood flow in the internal spermatic vein that causes venous engorgement. Varicoceles are usually more common in the left testicle (80% – 90%), most likely because of the position of the left testicular vein. 

A major concern with varicocele is infertility. Even though most men with varicoceles are fertile, the condition is clinically significant because they are the most commonly identified cause of low sperm count, reduced sperm motility, abnormal semen analysis and sperm morphology. 

Varicoceles are usually asymptomatic and may develop over time. Impaired fertility, decreased testosterone production by the testis, or scrotal pain / heaviness – these are the three main problems caused by varicoceles.

Are there associated dangers of Varicoceles?

Sometimes varicoceles are associated with more serious conditions. If instead of left, they are noticed on the right side, it is essential to make sure that there are no mass or other abnormality in the abdomen that is causing it.

Varicoceles usually “reduce” while lying down since the posture helps more blood to drain from the scrotum. If it does not reduce, then abdominal blockage such as a mass or tumor, can be a cause of concern.

Finally, it has an effect on testosterone production and levels. Even though most men with varicoceles do maintain satisfactory levels of testosterone throughout their lives without treatment, in rare cases the condition leads to severely low levels. This condition is linked to associated complications like diabetes, osteoporosis and metabolic syndrome. 

Low testosterone production can also lead to many other problems, such as, inability to get a firm erection, low sex drive, fatigue, sleeping disorders, decreased exercise tolerance, increased fat mass, hot flashes, decreased muscle mass etc.

When and how are Varicoceles detected?

Varicoceles are detected under the following scenarios:

  • Most commonly, it is found in a completely asymptomatic man who is being evaluated for infertility.
  • When a patient or a physician during a routine exam detects a mass in the scrotum. 
  • Regular examination of a man who presents to a physician with pain in the scrotum.

If you are worried that you may have issues with sperm or testosterone production, you should make an appointment to see your doctor. 

Varicoceles can be corrected through surgery, and for men who are looking for a non-surgical treatment option, a minimally invasive procedure known as varicocele embolization is available. This procedure offers quick recovery, and is found successful in about 90% of cases. Call and talk to your doctor at Avis Vascular center to know more about the treatment.