Learn More About Varicocele
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Mr. Daniel Johnson, B.Sc.
Varicocele is swollen testicle veins. Just like swollen veins in the legs, the veins draining from the scrotum can also become swollen. As it turns out, varicocele is very common and the #1 cause of male infertility.
You may read that varicocele is the result of "venous insufficiency". This simply means that the veins were unable to circulate the blood.
It is commonly thought that varicocele is caused by the defective or missing vein valves that prevent backward blood flow, however this is an out-dated theory with weak supporting evidence. The majority of individuals with varicocele have normal valves.
When blood does not circulate well, it pools, and causes excess pressure on the vein walls, and stretches them. Swollen testicular veins are refereed to as a varicocele. Varicoceles are very similar to hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and spider veins.
A varicocele can be small and only visible via ultrasound, or palpable (able to be touched or felt), and feels like a bag of worms inside the scrotum.
Varicocele is the #1 cause of male infertility. About 10-20% of all men have a varicocele. 40-60% of men with infertility have varicocele.
Even though it was generally accepted that varicocele may also be symptomless, it is now known to negatively effect testosterone levels.
Generally symptoms worsen with age, which is why it is important to treat varicocele in its early stages. View my blog for some great information on varicocele natural treatments.
When blood pools in the varicocele, it causes excess heat, hyper-hydration, oxidation, toxin buildup, and depletion of nutrients, resulting in many negative side effects. The major side effects are enlarged veins, pain, decreased fertility, scrotal sag, testicular shrinkage, and decreased testosterone. Many people experience some of the following symptoms as well: Embarrassment, gynecomastia, erectile dysfunction, weak or quickly lost erections, low sex drive, decreased masculinity, low motivation, decreased muscle tone, infertility, and increased estrogen.
Is it Possible to Treat Varicocele Naturally?
Yes, it is very possible to treat varicocele. When it comes to varicocele treatment without surgery, there are 3 things you can do:
Note: A combination of all 3 is the most effective.
What's best is that a combination of these treatments should take no more than 5-10 minutes per day.
Controllable Varicocele Risk Factors (Lifestyle Interventions)
There are many specific lifestyle interventions that help treat varicocele. In every varicocele case, making these lifestyle changes leads to dramatic improvements in both varicocele symptoms and swelling size.
Varicocele Toxic Blood Pooling
Those with any of the of the following symptoms must also perform treatments for varicocele toxic blood pooling:
Despite the popular belief that faulty valves cause varicocele (which is False), current scientific knowledge states that a complex of risk increasing factors cause varicocele to develop. This means that many factors are contribute to the development of varicocele and its symptoms.
Simply, this means that there are many factors responsible for varicocele and that surgery merely addresses the symptom of faulty valves, and that is why it is ineffective in many cases.
These risk increasing factors relate to impairment of blood flow, increased pressure in the torso and an excess production of vasodilators. You can read the preview of the The Complete Guide to Natural Healing of Varicocele for more information on the causes of varicocele and how to treat them naturally without surgery, visit the varicocele healing blog, or continue reading for more details.
Two common causes that elevate pressure in the testicular veins are the Nutcracker effect, and how the left testicular vein connects to the renal vein at a 90-degree angle.
The Nutcracker effect describes how the left renal vein is compressed in the torso. This compression impairs circulation in the renal vein which forces blood to pool in the varicocele. The 90-degree entry angle creates fluid pressure that then backs up blood. These two anatomical features increase blood pressure in the veins.
Testicular veins are not anatomically designed to take high blood pressure, therefore the Nutcracker effect and the 90-degree entry cause veins to stretch and become varicose. These are two major contributors to the discrepancy between left- and right- sided varicocele prevalence (80% left-sided, 2% right-sided, 18% bilateral). However there are many other contributors to varicocele development.
About one in four people with varicocele experience fertility problems. That is about 2-4% of the population. The main parameters used for assessing fertility are sperm count, volume, morphology, and motility, as well as sperm DNA damage, and testicular volume. Varicocele negatively effects all these parameters.
Varicocele can also cause a decrease in testosterone levels, leading to lowered sexual performance and slight feminization of the body and mind (e.g., enlargement of breast tissue, erectile dysfunction, passivity and decrease assertiveness).
Lower testicular volume is common in those diagnosed with a varicocele. Testicular volume is normally greater than 15 cm³. Varicocele causes an average decrease of 5 cm³ in volume on the affected side. Notably, the unaffected side may also shrink because of the disruption of normal hormone production in the effected side. Higher grade and bilateral varicoceles cause the biggest decrease in volume, and have the most sever symptoms.
What Causes Varicocele Pain
Varicocele pain is typically felt in the testicles and is caused simply by two things:
Varicocele Toxic Blood Pooling
Varicocele occurs when blood does not circulate well and pools. Pooled blood is toxic. It causes oxidative damage, heat stress, hypoxia, cellular waste buildup, and nutrient deprivation. Simply put, this means stress and damage to the sperm, testicles, veins and vein vales. You feel pain when your testicles are under stress or are being damaged by toxic blood pooling.
Unhealthy Testicles (Risk Factors)
Many people think that their testicular pain is only caused by varicocele. That is not the case. Many times, their lack of care for their testicles is what's causing the pain. Various lifestyle factors contribute to unhealthy testicles--all of which are 100% controllable. Examples of lifestyle factors include: Smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol or coffee in excess, improper underwear type, lack of care during physical activity, overweight or obesity, testicular hyperthermia, and many more. Correcting these lifestyle factors will help minimize testicular pain.
Can You Treat Varicocele Pain?
Yes you can. As I've mentioned, both varicocele toxic blood pooling and unhealthy testicles can be treated naturally, at home, and without surgery. For examples of treatments please visit my Varicocele Pain Relief blog.
The standard way to diagnose varicoceles is by physical examination. Depending on grade, the patient may be standing, laying down or performing the Valsalva maneuver. Palpation of the scrotum by a trained physician can detect varicocele.
Currently, only two options exist for natural varicocele treatment: Surgery OR natural treatment. Many people turn away from surgery because it is costly and high risk. Moreover, many people who undergo surgery re-develop varicocele (5-15%), continue experiencing pain (5-15%), and do not experience fertility improvements (85-94%).
The alternative option is natural varicocele treatment. Natural treatments can be very effective because they address many issues that surgery neglects. Surgery addresses the symptom of faulty valves/swollen veins, while natural treatment aims to address the root cause of the problem.
Varicocele surgery is meant to stop the backward blood flow that makes varicocele develop. This is done by killing off the veins that circulate the blood. Typically a single, non-varicose vein is left open in attempt to allow for continued blood flow.
Surgical treatment methods include: Subinguinal (incision made in upper scrotum), inguinal (incision made in groin area), retroperitoneal (incision made in lower abdomen), laparoscopy (surgery using a camera, incision made in groin or abdominal area), radiologic (also called embolization, where valves are sealed off using metal coils, then killed using chemical, incision made in groin). In all cases, an incision is made and the varicose veins are cut out.
Bare in mind, it is true that couples who are infertile and have a sperm count less that 5 million/ml, and established infertility for at least one year are capable of achieving natural conception at a 36% rate without any therapy . Therefore it is likely that neither varicoceletomy nor radiologic procedure results in any improvement in pregnancy, despite leading to some semen improvement .
Though surgery is considered as "effective" at treating varicocele, it is often unnecessary and comes with many risks. Aside from the possibility of losing a testicle and the scarring from the incision, varicocele re-develops as much as 30% of cases, normally there is no testicular hypertrophy (no size regain), and most of the time normal fertility does not resume. That is not to mention that surgery literally involves killing your veins (which do not regrow). Moreover, varicocele surgery now costs over $14,000 and even with insurance can still cost well over $2,000.
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