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Frequently Asked Questions

What will happen if I choose not to get treated?

Not treating a varicocele may result in the testicle shrinking and/or a drop in semen quality. This may lead to fertility problems, though this is rare. The varicocele may, over time, cause lasting harm to the testicle that can't be fixed. If a semen analysis is normal, then it's okay not to get treated. If the semen analysis isn't normal, then action is called for. In some men, the "varicocele effect" on making sperm may get worse over time. Fertility issues may come up years later, even if not seen earlier.

My teenage son was diagnosed with a varicocele. Should this be fixed?

Treatment of teenagers depends on each case. It's important to discuss options with a urologist or pediatric urologist. Varicocele repair in a teen may be considered if there is pain or if 1 testicle is more than 10% smaller than the other. Some families choose repair so they won't have to worry about fertility issues in the future. Semen analyses can be done in older teens to see if repair would help.

I'm interested in having children and have no symptoms. Should I have my varicocele repaired?

As a rule, varicoceles with no symptoms aren't repaired. Most health care providers don't believe these varicoceles cause health problems if not treated. If there's worry about fertility, semen analysis can be done to see if the varicocele is harming sperm quality.

I have pain with my varicocele. What can I do to ease the pain?

Supporting the scrotum with a jockstrap or briefs-style underwear can help varicocele pain. Lying on your back helps the varicocele drain, and often eases pain. Taking pain killers (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen) may also help. You can also talk with your urologist about varicocele repair.

I'm thinking about having my varicocele repaired for fertility reasons. How long will I have to wait to see if my semen quality improves?

Semen analyses are often done every 3 to 4 months after the procedure. Improvement is often seen within 6 months, but might take a year.

I found a lump on my scrotum during a self-exam. Should I worry?

Abnormalities in the male reproductive tract may show up as a mass in the scrotum. Masses could be nothing to worry about and have little effect on your health. Or they could be a sign of life-threatening illness. It's important to find out what is causing your mass. For example, testicular cancer is cause for concern and calls for prompt action. It's important to seek medical attention when you find any lump or bump in your testicle.