Vein condition may cause infertility

This common condition often requires no treatment, but there is good news for men who do need it.

A varicocele occurs when enlarged "varicose" veins form in the scrotum. The cause is an abnormal leakage of pressure from abdominal veins down into scrotal veins. This condition is often asymptomatic, and may need no treatment at all, but it may cause pain, testicular shrinkage, and may be associated with male infertility.

Signs of a varicocele:

  • A feeling of heaviness or discomfort in the scrotum, usually on the left.

  • Bulging blue veins on the skin of the scrotum, more prominent with activity.

  • Occasionally, may cause a noticeable smaller left testicle (often only detectable by a doctor's exam, or an ultrasound)

Varicoceles may occur in teenage boys, or in any older age group. Boys with large varicoceles probably should be screened for testicular shrinkage (atrophy) by ultrasound . Any patient with a painful varicocele may benefit from repair.

It is controversial whether to fix varicoceles in infertile men. Varicocele is more common in inferile men. While varicocele repair improves semen analysis results significantly in these men, there is disagreement regarding the benefit of repair on ultimate fertility.

There is good news however for men and boys needing repair. Open surgery to tie off abnormal veins has been the only option in the past, but a newer, minimally invasive and non-surgical option is now available. Varicocele embolization has been shown to be as effective as surgery, but is safer and requires no incision or stitches. It is performed by interventional radiologists.

To find a doctor near you who performs this non-surgical procedure, go to, or