A varicocele (say "VAR-uh-koh-seel") is an enlarged vein in the scrotum, most often on the left side. It may feel something like a bag of worms. Varicoceles can be related to poor sperm quality, which may cause problems with fertility.
What causes it?
A varicocele may form in the scrotum when there is increased pressure in the veins of the scrotum. This pressure is more likely to build up in the left side of the scrotum. That's because of how the veins on the left side are connected to the rest of the body's blood vessels.
What are the symptoms?
A varicocele may not cause any symptoms. But you may feel an ache in your scrotum. You may notice that your scrotum is larger or hangs lower than usual. Or you may see or feel enlarged veins in it. Some teens with a varicocele have a smaller testicle.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor may feel the varicocele when checking your scrotum. You may get an ultrasound of the scrotum to look at the size and shape of the testicles. This scan can also make sure that the larger scrotum is a varicocele and not something else.
How is it treated?
Most varicoceles don't need treatment. And most don't cause problems. But if your testicle is too small, the varicocele is large, or you have pain, your doctor may recommend a procedure or surgery to close or tie off the veins in the scrotum so pressure doesn't build up.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.