Varicocele, pronounced vari-co-seal, is a dilation of the veins above the testicle. This is usually harmless, but in some cases can be uncomfortable or painful and affect fertility.
This condition is fairly common affecting around 1 in 7 young adult males.
It is usually visible when standing up, but not lying down.
If the varicocele is causing problems, treatment may be recommended after specialist examination by a urologist.
Treatment for varicocele
Sometimes the veins are tied off or actually removed. This is done under general anaesthetic.
However, most often a procedure is carried out to block the vein causing the bulge to disappear, called varicocele embolisation. This is carried out under local anaesthetic in hospital.
X-ray monitoring is used to guide a wire and catheter through the large vein in the groin and into the right position in the varicocele.
Then one of two methods is used to block the vein: an injection of a special fluid, or small metal coils, which make the blood around them clot.
A radiologist will then inject a special contrast dye down the catheter to help check the abnormal veins have been successfully blocked.
The procedure takes around half an hour to an hour. After around three to four hours recovery time, a friend or relative can take the patient home.
After resting for the rest of the day, normal activities can resume after 24 hours.
Painkillers may be recommended for any discomfort.
In rare cases, bleeding from the puncture site may occur. This can be stopped by pressing on the wound for up to 20 minutes. Seek medical advice if there are concerns.