What are varicoceles?

The purpose of veins within the human body is to transport blood from an organ back to the heart and lungs.  The veins that drain the testicles are unique and for a plexus of interconnected veins that travel within the spermatic cord. This plexus of veins has an important role in maintaining testicular temperature 2 to 4 degrees cooler than core body temperature. This “cooling effect” is essential for optimizing sperm production.

Varicoceles are abnormally engorged testicular veins that allow retrograde flow, whereby blood actually moves toward the testicles rather than toward the heart.  As a result, the “cooling effect” is lost, and the testes may experience a different hormonal or biochemical environment. Varicoceles can lead to growth retardation of the testes and can cause poor sperm production and quality.  The biggest semen analysis parameter impacted by varicocele appears to be motility.
Varicoceles are common and are present in nearly 15 percent of men in the general population.  Approximately 35 to 40 percent of men evaluated for infertility are found to have a varicocele, and it is thought to be one of the most common reversible causes of male factor infertility.

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