Varicocele — abnormal enlargement of veins in the scrotum — is a common but frequently undetected condition that can lead to male infertility, Taichung-based Asia University Hospital urologist Chiu Hung-chieh (邱鴻傑) said.
Varicocele is usually caused by inherited flaws in anatomical structure or otherwise obstructed venous flow, and 15 to 20 percent of males worldwide have the condition, which often begins at a young age, Chiu said.
Although most men with the condition do not experience physical discomfort, symptoms can include a noticeably veiny scrotum, a feeling of heaviness in the testicles and dragging pain or swelling in the groin or abdominal region, especially after prolonged standing, walking or sitting, Chiu said.
In severe cases, varicocele can cause the affected testicle to shrink and produce semen of a low quantity or quality, leading to infertility, Chiu said, adding that about 80 percent of varicocele cases occur on the left side because the left testicular vein is connected to the renal vein at a 90° angle.
Chiu said a 19-year-old-patient was treated at his clinic after experiencing chronic abdominal and testicular pain that resulted in frequent sick leave and problems with his employer.
By the time the patient came for treatment in January, the condition had became severe and required microsurgery.
He was released from hospital the day after the surgery and resumed a full, active life, Chiu said.
Less invasive treatment options such as medication that controls symptoms are sufficient for most with the condition, he said, adding that surgery is necessary only for advanced cases that result in severe discomfort or threaten infertility.
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