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Treat your testes

27 December 2014, 08:56

Nairobi - A varicocele is a widening of the veins in the scrotum, which house the testicles. While frequently harmless, varicoceles can cause pain, testicular shrinkage and, over time, can potentially lead to lower sperm counts and quality.

The condition, which is similar to varicose veins, is estimated to affect 15% of men over 15. But it is found in more than a third of men being assessed for primary infertility - an inability to biologically father a child - and 80% of secondary infertility cases - men who were once able to father a child but are not able to do so anymore.

Although varicoceles may not be the sole cause of infertility in all those cases, the close association with infertility and apparent worsening of the effect over time suggest early surgical correction of the flawed veins could have important benefits later on, the authors note.

Del Giudice and her colleagues studied 21 boys between the ages of 15 and 19. They collected two semen samples before surgical correction of the varicoceles and another two samples at least three months after the varicocelectomy.

The decision of whether or not to proceed with a varicocelectomy is typically based on testicular volume, or how much smaller the affected testicle is compared to the other, as well as a conventional analysis of semen quantity and quality.

Still, Seaman does not suggest that parents need to rush their teenage sons into surgery. "If it sits a month, nothing will happen," he said. "A year could be another story."

"We feel that all young boys should be referred to an urologist for a full clinical evaluation, just as girls are referred to their gynecologists," added Del Giudice. "Not all adolescents will have a varicocele, and not all adolescents with a varicocele will need an operation."

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