Three Varicocele Treatment Options to Consider
If you’ve been diagnosed with varicoceles or you think you may have them, then you may be wondering how they’re treated. At this point, you probably already know that varicoceles are enlarged veins right next to your testicles. They’re fairly common — especially as you get older — and they can be uncomfortable. They can also cause your scrotum to look larger and lopsided, and they can heat up your testicles, which can reduce your fertility and your testosterone levels. These are all reasons why men may want to explore varicocele treatment options. By sealing off any malfunctioning veins, varicocele treatment can relieve discomfort, return blood flow to normal, and improve your fertility.
So what do you next?
First off, if you haven’t already been diagnosed, you should see a urologist to confirm your suspicion. If your urologist says you have a varicocele but doesn’t recommend treatment, you may want to get a second opinion. As I explain in my book The Male Biological Clock, varicoceles can be more severe and have more of an impact on fertility than a simple sperm test or physical exam might indicate.
Here’s a description of each procedure, along with a few of the pros and cons:
With this type of surgery, your urologist operates through a one-inch cut in your lower abdomen. You might get local anesthesia to numb the area or you might get general anesthesia, which makes you sleep through the procedure. Although most men go back to work after two or three days, it’s best to avoid exercise and sex for about two weeks.
With laparoscopic surgery, your urologist will make a smaller cut and use it to insert tubes that hold surgical tools and a tiny camera. This procedure is usually done with general anesthesia. The recovery time is the same as for open surgery.
With this less-common procedure, a radiologist inserts a tube called a catheter into your body through a vein. The radiologist then guides the catheter to the varicocele and inserts a balloon or coil into the varicocele. This blocks the blood flow to the varicocele and causes it to shrink. This procedure is also done with general anesthesia. Recovery after an embolization is relatively fast: You’ll still need to take a day or two off from work, but you can usually start exerting yourself seven to 10 days after the surgery. On the other hand, a varicocele may be more likely to come back after this treatment.
As surgeries go, these three approaches are all relatively low-risk, although it’s important to remember that all types of surgery have risks and potential complications. Also, for some men, the varicocele doesn’t go away or it can come back after the procedure. If this happens, you might want to have surgery again.
At this point, you may be wondering which approach is the best one. The answer to that depends on the urologist skill and experience. In my practice I only recommend microsurgery for varicocele repair.