Varicocele and fertility
Varicoceles are present in 10-15% of all men and generally cause no problems. 40% of sub-fertile men have a varicocele. Also couples who have successfully had a child, but are having a difficulty conceiving a second time, the presence of varicoceles can be as high as 81%.
We know that varicocele is associated with reduced male fertility, but the exact reason is not completely clear, the cause is thought to be increased temperature of the testes and poor blood flow. The testicles need to a be a bit cooler than the body for normal sperm and testosterone production. This is why they are outside of the body in the scrotum and can move up and down, allowing regulation of their temperature.
The pooling of blood in a varicocele warms the testicles, reducing the number and quality of sperm produced.
In addition, the pooling of blood means waste products of metabolism are less efficiently cleared from the scrotum, which may also affect sperm and testosterone production.
When present from adolescence, a varicocele may cause one testicle to be smaller. Smaller testicles produce fewer sperm.
Early treatment of varicocele can allow a small testicle to grow to normal size.
Varicocele treatment improves fertility in around 50-60% of couples. Studies have shown 83% of patients have an increase in sperm production with embolization (versus 63% with surgical operation.)
Clearly reduced fertility has many causes, treating a varicocele eliminates one of the possible causes.
Back to Top