What are the different types of varicocele?
There are two types of varicocele which can be further categorized into 3 types.
- Primary Varicocele develops when the left internal spermatic veins and the renal vein creates pressure inside the scrotum. In addition to this, there can be malfunctioning of the valves in the veins.
- Secondary Varicocele develops when an unwanted growth of skin in the scrotum restricts flow to the internal spermatic vein.
Whether someone is suffering from primary or secondary varicocele, the doctor diagnoses the grade of the varicocele the patient is suffering from.
Grade 1 varicocele- In this classification of varicocele, the affected veins are not visible to the naked eyes. It gets detected only during a physical examination.
Grade 2 varicocele- In this category, the veins are larger than grade 1 but these are still invisible to the eye.
Grade 3 varicocele- These are enlarged veins that are easily visible to the naked eye.
What happens if a varicocele is left untreated?
Leaving a varicocele untreated for long can lead to severe complications. Some of them are discussed below-
- Infertility - Varicocele is one of the prime contributors to increasing infertility and lower sperm count in males in India. The main reason being that an increased blood flow raises the temperature of the testicles thereby, lowering sperm production.
- Shrinking of testicles - As the veins of the scrotum get enlarged, the testes tend to become smaller and softer. This is also known as testicular atrophy or shrinkage.
- Imbalance of hormones- When diagnosed with varicocele, there are higher levels of luteinizing hormone secretion. This is an abnormality as this hormone is found in higher levels in women.
How to prepare for varicocele surgery?
Regardless of what surgical method you opt for, there are basic things that every varicocele surgery patient needs to follow. There are no major preparation steps for the surgery. But, if recommended, you need to follow the below-mentioned things.
- Do not eat anything for 10-12 hours before your surgery. Your doctor may restrict your diet before the surgery and may ask you to go completely on a liquid diet.
- You may be asked to shave your groin area a night before the surgery. This is mainly recommended to avoid any kind of skin irritation on the day of the surgery.
- Do not apply any harsh soap or gel on the surgical area before the surgery. If you take bath, make sure to wash it only with mild soap or shampoo.
- If you have diabetes or take any medicines for other health conditions, ask your doctor if you can continue taking those or you stop. Take your medications as per the surgeon's advice.
- Get someone to accompany you to the hospital and take you back after the surgery.
What happens during varicocele surgery?
All the surgical methods of treating varicocele are intended to block the blood flow to the damaged veins.
The two common surgical approaches of varicocele surgery or varicocelectomy are:
- Laparoscopic varicocelectomy - In this procedure, the surgeon inserts thin tubes in the abdomen to perform vein ligation. The procedure is very simple and is completed within 30-40 minutes. Once the vein ligation is done, the patient is discharged on the same day.
- Microscopic varicocelectomy - The surgeon makes an incision of around 1 cm above the scrotum. Using a microscope, the surgeon ligates the small veins. The procedure takes around 2 hours to complete and once done, the patient is discharged home.
What to do after varicocele surgery?
Usually, there are no major complications after varicocele surgery. The patient is discharged within 24 hours of the surgery. But, if the doctor thinks there could be potential complications, the patient might be asked to stay for one more day or so. For quick and seamless recovery, you should adhere to the following tips after a varicocelectomy.
- Do not live a sedentary life. Get up and start walking slowly and steadily.
- If you feel tired or low, take a rest.
- In case you feel any pain, take only those painkillers and antibiotics that are prescribed by your doctor.
- Apply ice pack on the scrotum for at least 20 minutes each day.
- While sitting, elevate the scrotum with the help of a pillow.
- For a few weeks, use a jockstrap.
What are the complications of varicocelectomy?
Varicocelectomy is usually a very simple and risk-free surgical procedure. But like any other surgeries, this too can pose some threats and risks including:
- infection at the surgery site
- blood clots on the legs
- pain and burning sensation at the surgical site
Prevention of varicocele
There are no preventive measures that can stop varicocele from occurring. But fortunately, there are some tips that improve circulation, strengthen vein structure and boost collagen production. These factors prevent new veins from swelling.
- Avoid a sedentary lifestyle. It is important that you don’t sit or stand for long periods without any break.
- Drink lots of water. Keep yourself hydrated to prevent sperm damage and maintain a proper pH balance.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle. To live a healthy life, stop consuming excessive alcohol or caffeine, stimulant drugs, smoking or consuming a low fiber, processed food diet.
- Consume Vitamin C-rich food. Vitamin C-rich food encourages collagen production and recovery. Some foodd that are rich in Vitamin C are broccoli, strawberries, mango, tomato, papaya, kale, and bell peppers.
- Ensure a healthy heart. People suffering from untreated diabetes or any cardiovascular diseases are more likely to suffer from arterial obstruction, poor circulation of blood as well as varicoceles.
- Eat food high in antioxidants to prevent damage to sperm.