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  • Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
Publication Type:




Varicocele is a widening of blood vessels in the scrotum. The scrotum is the pouch that contains the testes in males.


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Most blood normally flows out of the scrotum through a main vein. A series of valves helps the blood move through the veins. If a valve is not working well blood can backup in the vein and stretch it out. Over time the vein widens because of the constant pressure.

Risk Factors

Varicoceles typically develop in people with testes who are 15 to 25 years of age.


A varicocele is an enlarged or twisted vein in the scrotum. It can be seen and felt. It may become larger when standing or straining. There may also be shrinkage of the testicles.


The doctor will be ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The doctor can make the diagnosis based on the physical exam.

An ultrasound may be done if other problems are expected.


Not everyone needs treatment for this.

Treatment may be done to block off the faulty vein and let blood flow out through other veins.

  • Open surgery—The vein is surgically cut and tied off.
  • Catheter ablation—Heat is applied through a catheter to destroy the vein.
  • Catheter embolization—A substance is placed in the vein to block it.


Varicoceles cannot be prevented.





  • Silay, M.S., Hoen, L., et al. Treatment of varicocele in children and adolescents: a systematic review and meta-analysis from the European Association of Urology/European Society for Paediatric Urology Guidelines Panel. European Urology, 2019; 75 (3): 448-461.
  • Varicocele in children and adolescents. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/condition/varicocele-in-children-and-adolescents.
  • Varicocele. Kid's Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/sexual_health/guys/varicocele.html.
  • Varicoceles. Urology Care Foundation website. Available at: https://www.urologyhealth.org/urology-a-z/v/varicoceles.


  • Chelsea Skucek, MSN, BS, RNC-NIC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.