Varicoceles

What is a Varicocele?

A varicocele is a swelling of the veins that lead from the testicles. Think of a varicocele in the same way you would think of varicose veins in the legs. A varicocele is often described as feeling like a “bag of worms.”

Varicoceles are seen in both adolescents and adult men, and among the latter, are one of the most common reversible causes of male infertility. However, the large majority of varicoceles are “silent,” meaning that they ultimately have no impact upon testicular health or fertility. For this reason, it is important to have a varicocele evaluated by a pediatric urologist.

Symptoms of Varicoceles

Varicoceles can present around puberty in about 15% of boys and are often seen in the left testicle. Varicoceles usually do not cause pain, only doing so in about 8% of the population. They usually do not have any symptoms and are detected by a routine physical exam by your son’s doctor.  In most cases, a varicocele is not harmful to your son. However, some varicoceles can interfere with the growth of the testicle, resulting in fertility issues down the road. Fortunately, varicoceles that do affect fertility can be surgically corrected to potentially improve fertility in the future.

Diagnosing and Treating Varicoceles

Diagnosis is made upon physical exam in the office with a pediatric urologist. If your son is not experiencing any pain, there are no changes in testicular size and consistency, and your child is comfortable with a plan of follow-up, then an appointment may be made for ongoing observation.

In rare cases, a varicocele will cause pain. In these cases, your doctor may recommend a common surgical procedure called a varicocelectomy that treats the affected veins through a small incision. This procedure is commonly done on an outpatient basis.  If a varicocele causes pain or affects the growth of the testicle, management by a pediatric urologist is appropriate.

In a varicocelectomy, Dr. Adam Kern will make a small incision in the groin, where the abnormal blood vessels are corrected under magnification. Dr. Kern also works with expert  interventional radiologists who can endoscopically treat varicoceles, when appropriate. The Chesapeake Urology for Children team also interfaces with fertility specialists who can assist in the diagnosis and monitoring of adolescents with varicoceles.

At Chesapeake Urology for Children, Dr. Adam Kern and the team understands that any health issue with your child is stressful. We will work closely with you in developing a plan of care that best meets your child’s individual needs and are here to answer any questions you may have.
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