A varicocele often produces no signs or symptoms. Rarely, it may cause pain. The pain may:
- Vary from sharp to dull discomfort
- Increase with standing or physical exertion, especially over long periods
- Worsen over the course of a day
- Be relieved when you lie on your back
With time, varicoceles may enlarge and become more noticeable. In young men, the presence of a varicocele impairs sperm production and can often be improved with treatment.
When to see a doctor
Because a varicocele usually causes no symptoms, it often requires no treatment. Varicoceles may be discovered during a fertility evaluation or a routine physical exam.
However, if you experience pain or swelling in your scrotum, discover a mass on your scrotum, notice that your testicles are different sizes, or develop a varicocele in your youth, or you're having problems with fertility, contact your doctor. A number of conditions can cause a scrotal mass or testicular pain, some of which require immediate treatment.
Your spermatic cord carries blood to and from your testicles. It's not certain what causes varicoceles. However, many experts believe a varicocele forms when the valves inside the veins in the cord prevent your blood from flowing properly. The resulting backup causes the veins to widen (dilate). This may then result in damage to the testicle and result in worsened fertility.
Varicoceles often form during puberty. Varicoceles usually occur on the left side, most likely because of the position of the left testicular vein. However, a varicocele in one testicle can affect sperm production in both testicles.
There don't appear to be any significant risk factors for developing a varicocele. However, some research suggests that being overweight may reduce your risk while being taller may increase the risk.