A common cause of reduced fertility in men, varicoceles occur when one of the veins in your scrotum becomes abnormally enlarged. If you’re not really concerned about losing your ability to father children, then you may think of varicoceles as harmless.
However, if you’re still planning to become a father sometime in the future, then you need to be aware that a varicocele can thwart those plans. Continue reading to find out how a varicocele can make you infertile.
If you can imagine having a varicose vein that makes your leg swollen and painful, that’s similar to what a varicocele does in your scrotum. Inside your scrotum, you will find your testes which produce your sperm.
The sperm that you produce travel from your testes to your epididymis where your spermatozoa stay to become mature. Your epididymis connects to your vas deferens, which is part of your spermatic cord, a bundle of tissues that contains nerves, blood vessels, as well as lymphatic channels.
The veins in your spermatic cord work by draining blood from your testes, vas deferens, and epididymis. When these veins become twisted and enlarged, then a varicocele develops.
Most of the time, varicoceles form in the left testicle because of the angle at which your left testicular vein connects with your left renal vein. However, even if the varicocele is located in your left testicle, it can also affect your right testicle.
Varicoceles are classified based on size. Just by looking at your testicle, you’ll easily see a large varicocele because the vein will most likely bulge, just like a large varicose vein. Small or moderate-sized varicoceles are not as noticeable, so you may not be aware that you have one.
In fact, many men with small or moderate varicoceles only find out that they have a varicocele when they get themselves examined for infertility. A varicocele can cause scrotal pain and a feeling of heaviness in the scrotum.
Varicoceles and Male Infertility
When you have a varicocele, it can adversely impact your sperm morphology, motility, and concentration. Varicoceles can also cause an increase in the number of your spermatozoa with fragmented or damaged DNA material.
There are many ways by which varicoceles negatively affect your sperm parameters. For one, varicoceles are associated with higher oxidative stress levels in the scrotum. When the cells in your testicles, including those that produce testosterone and your sperm, are damaged by oxidative stress, it can result in structural alterations and impaired functions.
Oxidative stress can also cause a lot of damage to your sperm. The cellular membrane of your sperm can get damaged. The tail of your sperm can also be affected by free radicals that cause damage to the tail structure. When this happens, the tail of your sperm can become crooked or broken, resulting in poor sperm motility.
In addition, oxidative stress can also result in a higher number of sperm with damaged DNA. Free radicals and reactive oxygen species can destroy the genetic material of your sperm. When they bind to your sperm’s DNA, the genetic material can get fragmented or damaged.
A varicocele can also cause heat injury to your sperm. Your scrotal temperature needs to remain at optimal levels in order for efficient sperm production and normal sperm maturation to happen. However, varicoceles raise your scrotal temperature and this can lead to impaired spermatogenesis.
Heat stress can also lead to a high number of sperm with damaged plasma and acrosome membranes. The acrosome is located on the upper half of your sperm head. When this gets damaged, it will reduce your sperm’s capacity to penetrate and fertilize the egg cell. Hence, a high number of sperm with acrosome damage means lower chances of fertilization.
Another reason why varicoceles are so detrimental to your fertility is that they cause oxygen deprivation. Varicoceles cause impaired blood flow in your testicles. When a varicocele grows in size, it can exert pressure on nearby blood vessels, causing them to constrict. A constricted blood vessel results in impeded blood circulation.
Impaired blood flow in your testicles can lead to the death of your testicular cells. When the cells that produce your sperm and testosterone die, your testicles can shrink and become soft. In fact, varicoceles are also associated with testicular shrinkage. That’s because the tubules that produce your sperm actually make up the bulk of your testicles.
In addition, a varicocele can also negatively affect your sex hormone levels, especially if the testicular cells that produce testosterone get damaged due to a varicocele. In short, you can end up with a subnormal or low testosterone level. This, in turn, can further affect your sperm production.
When you have a varicocele, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you will become infertile. In fact, as many as 20% of fertile men also have varicoceles. However, the prevalence of varicoceles in infertile men is much higher, at around 40%.
Hence, in order to avoid becoming infertile later on, you may want to have your varicocele treated, especially if it’s already causing testicular pain or if it’s already affecting your hormonal levels.
There are no medications for varicoceles. However, doctors often recommend antioxidant supplementation to help combat the increased oxidative stress caused by varicoceles.
To surgically remove the varicocele, a varicocelectomy is typically performed. Surgical techniques employed in the correction of varicoceles include laparoscopic and microsurgical subinguinal varicocelectomy. The latter is considered the gold standard since it results in fewer complications.
Enhancing Men’s Fertility
If you’re looking for an antioxidant supplement that can help you improve your fertility, you can try the ones with natural ingredients. There are widely popular, safe and effective male sex enhancement supplement that contains antioxidant-rich herbal ingredients. For example, you will find maca and Tribulus terrestris in these supplements.
Maca is a nutrient and antioxidant-rich vegetable that has significant positive effects on sperm production and sperm quality. Studies have shown that taking maca supplements can greatly increase your sperm count and motility. On top of that, maca is an excellent erection-booster.
Natural supplements also contains horny goat weed, Tongkat Ali, and Butea superba. These herbs also support sperm production and improved sperm motility. Plus, they’re great for enhancing male sexual virility.