When the veins inside the scrotum become enlarged, the condition is called varicoceles. The scrotum is the loose bag of skin that holds the testicles. The vein which gets enlarged is known as the pampiniform plexus. 10% to 15% of men contract varicoceles. It is comparable to the varicose vein in the leg.
The male anatomy differs on both sides. Varicoceles generally happen on the left side of the body. Pampiniform plexus on the left side of the scrotum gets enlarged and disrupts the blood flow. Varicoceles can start at puberty but will not be noticed as very rarely are they painful at that stage. Over time, they can grow and cause discomfort. There are instances where varicoceles are reported on both sides of the scrotum, however, that is extremely rare.
What causes Varicoceles?
It is still not clear what causes varicoceles. But many experts believe that the valves in the vein may not function properly leading to varicoceles. Different veins carry blood to and fro from the heart to the organ. The larger veins are differently connected to the left and the right side of the scrotum. By design, more pressure is needed to pump blood towards the heart from the left side. If the veins are not functioning properly, it can cause the blood to flow backward or form a pool in the vein leading to swelling of the area. This condition can be associated with pain. Varicoceles generally form during puberty and worsen over time.
How do you know if you have Varicoceles?
In early stages Varicoceles do not show any major symptoms. That is why they may remain undiagnosed for many years. However, as they grow you may experience the following:
- Swelling in the scrotum
- Dull to sharp recurring pain or discomfort in the scrotum
- Increasing pain over the course of day
- Lying on the back relieves the pain
- Feeling a lump in your testicles especially on the left side
- Twisted and enlarged veins appearing like a bag of worms
- Last but not the least, impaired fertility
In fact, it may happen that unless varicoceles is accompanied by pain, it escapes diagnosis until the individual is having difficulty in fathering a child. Varicoceles causes low sperm count and low quality sperm both of which are responsible for infertility. Almost 4 out of 10 men unable to produce their first offspring have fertility issues due to varicoceles. This number increases to 8 out of 10 during the second child.
When to see a doctor
As there are no major symptoms associated with varicoceles, it is generally discovered during routine physical check or an infertility examination. However, if you are experiencing pain in the scrotum or if you feel a lump in that area, it is advisable to visit a doctor to rule it out. Of course, if you are having issues with fertility it is imperative that you see a doctor.
There are two kinds of treatments available for varicoceles – Surgical and Non-Surgical
- Surgical Treatment: All surgical treatments, whether microscopic or laparoscopic involve blocking of the blood flow in the pampiniform plexus veins. Generally, the patient is discharged on the same day of the operation. The surgery is successful in most of the cases, the relapse of the disease occurring rarely.
- Non-Surgical Treatment: The non-surgical methods of varicoceles treatment include a change in diet, performing Kegel exercises, herbal varicocele medicines and varicoceles embolization. Those who want to avoid surgery, after consultation with their doctor, may try the non-surgical treatment.
Benefits of treating varicoceles the non-surgical way
Before we tell you the advantages of treating varicoceles through non-surgical methods, here is why you should avoid surgery-
- Risk of relapse of the disease
- Scarring due to the invasive procedures
- Risk of infection
- A longer recovery period, especially for the resumption of sexual activities
Now that you are aware of the downsides of the surgical method, let us delve into the benefits offered by the non-surgical process-
Minimum Recovery time:
Recovering from the varicoceles surgery may take anywhere between 3 to 4 weeks. The non-invasive method needs only a couple of days to heal. Treatment without surgery considerably reduces your recovery time and you can go about your normal routine activities as if nothing happened at all. Thus, your work, school, family, in fact, your life in general is not much impacted. A couple of day’s recovery can always be planned around long weekends or holidays allowing you not to disrupt your daily routine.
During the surgical process, depending on the procedure opted; one or more incisions may be required to ligate all the veins. The incisions are bound to leave a scar. Also, you would require cleaning the incisions and monitoring them carefully to avoid risk of infection to the incised area for up to 6 weeks or until healed completely. On the contrary, for varicoceles embolization, only a small puncture site is needed. This results in zero to minimal scarring and also gives you a lower risk of infection.
Don’t need to be knocked out:
In the normal course of surgery, the patient is monitored for general anesthesia. General Anesthesia impacts the whole body and totally knocks you out for the desired number of hours. The regaining of consciousness takes time and even after the resumption, the patient may feel dizzy and not be in full control, mentally and physically. General anesthesia may also induce vomiting, nausea or sore throat. Varicoceles treatment without surgery helps bypass this issue as well. The embolization method involves applying local anesthesia. It is just like how a dentist pulls out the tooth. You are fully conscious yet you do not feel any pain. If you are using herbal medications and making lifestyle changes, then obviously there is no question of being anesthetized.
Varicocele embolization is a non-surgical method to treat varicoceles. It can be done in an outpatient setting with minimum time and cost. Therefore, the risks associated with any surgical process do not apply to this treatment. Most importantly, there is no risk of damaging any other artery. Same goes for herbal medications and diet or lifestyle changes.
Treating varicoceles through surgery needs you to be hospitalized at least overnight so that the basic health parameters like blood pressure, etc., can be monitored. The surgery is carried on only when the vital signs are perfect. On the other hand, embolization is performed in an outpatient facility. Therefore, there is absolutely no need for hospitalization. Just walk in at your designated time, get the treatment performed and walk out. As simple as that! In the case of ayurveda or herbal remedies no hospital visits are needed.
Early Resumption of Physical Activity:
Treating varicoceles with surgery needs an incision to be done. Hence, doctors would advise zero physical activity as a post recovery measure. Not abstaining from sexual and physical activity may tear the incision. Bleeding may start and increase the risk of infection. The general timeline for abstaining is up to 2 weeks from the date of surgery for physical exercises and up to a month for sexual activity. In sharp contrast, the non-surgical method of treatment allows you to resume exercises within 7-10 days and your sexual life within 1-2 weeks.
If a disease can be cured with minimum invasion to the body tissues, it is always wiser to choose that path. However, always consult your doctor as to what is best for your case and stage of varicoceles.
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