Children's Hospital Colorado

Varicocele

What is a varicocele?

A varicocele is an abnormality or a widening in the veins around the testicle. The blood backs up in the veins, causing swelling that is similar to the varicose veins that develop in the legs. Varicoceles usually develop slowly and are generally not harmful or painful, but they can occasionally lead to problems with fertility.

What causes varicoceles?

There is no known cause.

Who gets varicoceles?

Varicoceles are most commonly found in males between the ages of 12 and 25 years. There are no known genetic links.

What are the signs and symptoms of varicocele?

Symptoms of a varicocele include a painless lump around the testicle, which is often described as a feeling like a “bag of worms.” The testicle with the varicocele can be smaller than the testicle without a varicocele. A varicocele is normally on the left side.

What tests are used to diagnose varicocele?

Occasionally a testicular ultrasound may be done. Is not usually required to make the diagnosis, but can be used to monitor whether the testicle is growing normally.

How do doctors at Children’s Hospital Colorado make a diagnosis?

A physical exam by a pediatric urologist assists in confirming if a child has a varicocele. Sometimes an ultrasound scan of the testicles is performed.

How is a varicocele treated?

If the child is not experiencing pain or discomfort, the urologist may suggest yearly follow-ups to evaluate the varicocele. If the child is experiencing pain or if the testicle is smaller, a surgery called a varicocelectomy may be recommended. This outpatient surgery removes the large veins and does not require an overnight stay in the hospital.

Why choose Children’s Hospital Colorado for your child’s varicocele?

At Children’s Hospital Colorado, we have dedicated specialists in pediatric urology, pediatric radiology and pediatric anesthesia. Our specialists are able to accurately make a diagnosis with as little discomfort to your child as possible. Frequently, no active treatment is necessary. If surgery is required, our experienced experts will provide state-of-the-art care for your child.


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