The testicles develop and function optimally at a slightly cooler temperature than the body’s core. The pampiniform plexus, a network of veins surrounding the spermatic cord, normally allows proper blood flow and regulates temperature. However, in varicocele, these veins become enlarged and congested, mimicking varicose veins in the legs. This disrupts testicular temperature regulation and potentially hampers sperm production.
Varicocele linked with male fertility
Approximately 15% of adolescent males are affected by varicoceles. The condition typically manifests during puberty, with the highest incidence occurring between the ages of 15 and 25. Despite its prevalence, awareness among adolescents and their parents remains relatively low.
Sperm quality decline: Varicocele has been linked to lower sperm count, motility, and morphology, potentially affecting future fatherhood.
Pain and discomfort: While less common, some adolescents experience varying degrees of scrotal pain or heaviness, leading to discomfort and affecting quality of life.
Importance of Early Detection
Early detection plays a pivotal role in managing varicoceles among adolescents. Routine testicular self-exams can aid in identifying any abnormalities, and regular check-ups with healthcare professionals can ensure prompt diagnosis. In majority of instances, varicoceles develop over a period. Varicoceles can be classified as Grade 1, Grade 2 and Grade 3 varicoceles. Grade 1 and 2 varicoceles are not visible but can be detected during a physical examination by the doctor, while a Grade 3 varicocele easily identifiable. Depending on the grade of varicocele present, some individuals may not require treatment. As time progresses, there may be swelling of varicoceles, and it becomes more visible. Further, if a varicocele results in symptoms, it can be treated surgically.
Impact on Fertility
Varicoceles may contribute to male infertility. Studies indicate that up to 40% of men experiencing infertility have varicoceles. The condition can lead to decreased sperm count, motility, and morphology, affecting the overall reproductive health of adolescents as they transition into adulthood.
While the exact cause of varicoceles is not always clear, certain risk factors contribute to its development. These include a family history of varicoceles, low body mass index (BMI), and conditions that increase intra-abdominal pressure.
Surgical intervention, known as varicocelectomy, is often recommended for larger varicoceles or those causing pain or fertility issues. This outpatient procedure involves tying off the dilated veins to redirect blood flow, improving overall testicular function.
Early detection and intervention are critical in managing varicoceles in adolescents. With routine self-exams, regular check-ups, and awareness campaigns, adolescents can take proactive steps toward their reproductive health.
By addressing varicoceles early on, adolescents can mitigate potential fertility issues and improve their overall reproductive well-being. As ongoing research provides further insights into the condition, raising awareness and promoting proactive healthcare practices are essential for the well-being of adolescents facing varicocele-related challenges.
(The author, Dr. Lavi Sindhu, is a consultant, at Birla Fertility & IVF.)