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A to Z: Varicocele (Scrotal Varices)

May also be called: Scrotal Varices; Scrotal Varicose Veins

A varicocele (VAR-uh-ko-seel) is an enlargement of the veins in the scrotum.

More to Know

In all males, there's a structure  called the spermatic cord that contains arteries, veins, nerves, and tubes. It is connected to and circulates blood to and from the testicles. Veins in the spermatic cord carry blood from the testicles back to the heart, and valves in the veins regulate the blood flow and keep blood flowing in the right direction. If the valves fail, some of the blood can flow in reverse. This backed-up blood can collect in pools in the veins, which then causes the veins to stretch and swell, resulting in a varicocele.

Varicoceles are fairly common, occurring in about 15% of males 15-25 years old, mostly during puberty. Varicoceles are usually found on the left side of the scrotum. Although it's less common, they can sometimes occur on both sides.

Symptoms of a varicocele include discomfort in the testicle, a feeling of heaviness or dragging in the scrotum, and dilated veins in the scrotum that can feel like worms or spaghetti.

Varicoceles are generally harmless, but some experts believe that occasionally they might damage the testicle or decrease sperm production. In those cases, a doctor will probably recommend surgery to treat the problem.

Keep in Mind

Most varicoceles don't require treatment and cause no symptoms. When treatment is recommended, it's usually successful at increasing sperm production and preventing further damage to the testicle.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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