Can Varicose Veins in the Scrotum Cause Infertility?
Did you know that varicose veins are not just a problem that appears in your legs? Varicose veins can develop in other sensitive parts of the body. And for men, one especially vulnerable area that varicose veins can affect is the testicles.
About one in seven men has varicocele or varicose veins in the testicles. Varicocele, otherwise known as varicose veins in the scrotum, is a common cause of male infertility and can cause low sperm production and decreased motility and quality. Similar to a varicose vein in the legs, blood pools within veins in the scrotum, resulting in swelling and dilation.
Varicose veins can put you at risk for deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A history of DVT can lead to developing other problems that can affect infertility. Penile Mondor Disease, for example, is a disorder that causes blood clots in the superficial veins of the penis.
Understanding Male Factor Infertility
In terms of infertility, it can affect either women or men. If you are stuck in this situation, then it’s important to empower yourself with the knowledge of conditions, options and treatments that enable you to conceive.
Male factor infertility is clinically defined as the presence of abnormal semen parameters in the male partner of a couple who is unable to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse.
How Varicoceles Affects Fertility
A varicocele is a condition in which the veins in your scrotum (the loose pouch of skin that carries your testicles) expand. Your veins have one-way valves that allow blood to flow out of your testicles and scrotum and back up to your heart when they’re working properly. When those valves don’t work properly, blood collects in your veins, stretching and bulging them, causing varicose veins in the scrotum. This is true whether it occurs in the veins of your legs or in more intimate areas of your body.
Keep in mind that swollen veins in the scrotum aren’t just a cosmetic issue. Internal pressure and temperature might rise as blood builds up in your veins. And it’s here where your fertility may be jeopardized― increased pressure and heat in this delicate area of your body could harm your testicles. That could lead to decreased sperm production, and poor sperm quality, both of which could impact male fertility. In fact, 4 out of 10 men have problems conceiving their first child due to varicoceles.
Symptoms of Varicoceles
With this type of varicose vein in the scrotum, you may experience unwanted symptoms other than challenges to your fertility. Your scrotum could get swollen or tender. The area may feel heavier than usual, or like it’s dragging from your body. Also, the veins in your testicles may become dilated or spaghetti-like. Most men describe this feeling like a bag of worms in their scrotum. In addition, the side of your scrotum without varicocele may appear smaller due to changes in your blood flow.
Common symptoms include:
- Sharp or dull discomfort
- Pain worsens with physical activity or standing for long periods
- Pain better when lying on back
- More severe at the end of the day
- Infertility issues
If you notice any of these symptoms of varicocele, it’s important to seek a diagnosis. Your healthcare provider can likely diagnose this vein problem with a physical testicular exam. Then, if varicose veins in your scrotum are the problem, you’ll get treatment and lifestyle recommendations. And those should include ways you can stay active while dealing with varicocele (or any type of vein disease!).
Other Concerns with Varicose Veins for Men
While rare, some men develop inflammation in their penile veins, triggering a condition called Penile Mondor Disease (PMD). That inflammation raises your risk for blood clots, and it can also cause pain or swelling in the area.
Genetics usually plays a role in your PMD risk level, but trauma (like with a sports injury) to the area can increase your risk. If you have PMD, your first symptom will likely occur between 24-48 hours after the troubling incident and presents as hardening of the vein on top of your penis. The skin may also turn red, swelling may develop, and you may experience throbbing pain, especially with an erection.
If you have PMD, urinating may also be painful or difficult. PMD can usually be diagnosed with a physical exam, but in some cases, you’ll need an ultrasound as well.
In most cases, PMD clears up on its own. If this becomes a recurring condition, you may need to treat the problematic vein just like you would with varicoceles.
How to Treat Male Varicose Veins in the Scrotum
USA Clinics Group specializes in the treatment for varicoceles, called percutaneous embolization. This is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment that is performed by our experienced interventional radiologists with a shorter recovery time, lower cost, and less discomfort than surgery.
Once the varicocele is found, a catheter is inserted through the artery in the groin. The catheter is guided to the diseased veins where it releases embolic coils that block blood flow to the varicoceles.
Of course, we understand that treating sensitive areas can be scary. But here’s the best news: during our minimally invasive treatment process, you’ll be awake, but you won’t be in pain. Once the procedure is complete, we’ll carefully observe your recovery process for several hours. Then, in most cases, we can send you home on the same day as your treatment!
Have you noticed bulging veins in your scrotum? Or do you have a throbbing ache in your pelvic region? Are you and your partner struggling with infertility issues?
We can help determine if a varicocele is contributing to your male infertility.