Varicose veins on the testicle, or varicoceles, is a medical condition that can contribute to infertility. It occurs when one or more blood vessels in this region of the body become twisted and enlarged. The most likely explanation for varicose veins to develop in the testicle involves a defective valve in one of the veins in the testicle. The normal course of blood flow is affected, and the varicose vein develops.
Blood normally flows to the testicles through an artery and is dispersed through a series of small veins. As the blood circulates through the abdomen, it cycles from the small veins into a larger one that moves up the abdomen. The blood in these veins should normally flow up, in the direction of the heart. One-way valves in the veins are meant to stop the blood from flowing down toward the testicles.
Varicose veins on the testicle develop when the one-way valves located in these veins malfunction. Some blood flows back toward the testicles and over time, this stretches the small veins responsible for supplying the testicles. As a result, the veins are misshapen and may cause pain or a heavy feeling in one testicle.
Once the varicose veins have been diagnosed, surgery is one treatment option available. During the procedure, which is usually performed under a general anesthetic, a urologist will make an incision in the scrotum and cut until the varicose veins are exposed. He will then tie off the veins and reroute the blood flow to veins with valves that are working normally. This procedure may be performed with a metal scope that is inserted into the abdomen, known as a laparoscope.
Another option for treating this condition is varicocele embolization, which is performed on an outpatient basis. A catheter is inserted into the abdomen and it threaded through until it reaches the varicose veins on the testicle. A special dye is injected into the patient and X-rays are used to see the location of the varicose vein. A small metal coil is inserted into the catheter and guided to the varicose vein, where it is left in place to block the flow of blood. Once the procedure has been completed, the catheter is removed. The patient will not require stitches and can return home the same day.