Men’s Health: Varicocele What is it and How to treat it
Varicocele – the most common cause of fertility issues in men
If your partner has been diagnosed with a low sperm count, more than likely he has had a physical examination that found a varicocele (pronounced VAR-a-co-cell).
What is it?
Varicocele – is a fancy name for a varicose vein, most often on the left testicle. Approximately 15-35% of men have one (likelihood increases with age). Most often they are only found by a trained doctor.
Symptoms of a varicocele include: aching after exercise, a constant dull ache or in some cases, one testicle is smaller than the other. Of course, if it is a stage 3 varicocele, it is possible to feel the varicocele as an enlarged vein through the skin.
How does Varicocele affect Fertility?
Varicocele can increase the temperature of the testis and therefore reduce the amount of sperm produced. In addition, testosterone can be lowered due to the condition.
Most often varicocele is treated with surgery. Removing the vein can potentially positively affect the Leydig cell function which influences testosterone production. This is a good thing when trying to conceive!
The Bad News….
Unfortunately, a lot of men will go on to develop another varicocele if vascular function is not improved. Therefore it is important to take action with proper diet and lifestyle changes in order to prevent a recurrence of varicocele.
The Good News…
There is a lot that can be done to improve varicocele naturally.
Firstly let’s take a look at your man’s diet. Is he getting good enough variety? Is he eating enough healthy greens to give him good fiber? If you follow me, you know by now that our modern diet, unfortunately, does not provide all of the vitamins and minerals necessary for our bodies to enjoy vibrant health.
Supplements are essential, for both you and your man, especially in the preconception phase. Deficiencies in his vitamins and minerals affect not only his health while trying to conceive, but also the health of your future offspring.
Vitamin C – strengthens the blood vessel walls thereby improving circulation. It is also anti-inflammatory and used in the creation of collagen. In order to improve varicocele men typically need to take supplements along with increasing Vitamin C rich foods such as broccoli, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, oranges, kiwi, and kale.
Vitamin E and K – Vitamin E and Vitamin K deficiency has been linked to varicose veins and therefore varicocele in men.
Horse chestnut Extract – contains Aescin, a compound that encourages vein dilatation and is used often in the treatment and prevention of varicocele. It has also been shown to reduce blood sugar in animal studies, so please be careful if your man is hypoglycaemic or has diabetes.
Rutin – a plant pigment (bioflavonoid) found in apples, black tea, citrus fruits, eucalyptus, and buckwheat. It helps the body to utilize Vitamin C and create collagen. It is often used in the treatment of varicose veins and strengthen the lining of blood vessels. It is also anti-thrombotic meaning it may also help to stop the formation of blood clots. Therefore, it is contraindicated if there are issues with blood coagulation, or if someone is on blood thinners. It should also not be taken with food.
Resveratrol – is a polyphenol made from the skin of red grapes, and is also found in peanuts and berries. It acts as an antioxidant and also has been shown to lower insulin resistance. Resveratrol is known primarily for its anti-aging properties. For men, it has shown promise in a study conducted with animal testing in reversing varicocele. Please note it potentially interferes with blood thinners and common medications such as ibuprofen and aspirin.
As previously mentioned, lifestyle changes are also necessary when it comes to improving varicocele.
These are often the first things that are mentioned by healthcare providers:
– lose weight
– wear loose-fitting underwear
– use a decent bicycle seat
– avoid hot tubs and
– absolutely, positively NO LAPTOPS or iPads on his lap!
The electromagnetic radiation created by these devices is harmful to his general health (as well as yours) and mobile phones in the front pocket blast the reproductive organs.
These are the most important aspects to consider when wanting to improve varicocele. For a proper diagnosis, please consult with your doctor.
Knowledge is power – and if your partner is diagnosed with varicocele, know that he is in good company! Millions of men have varicocele and there is a lot that he can do (see above) to make positive changes to his condition.
Wishing you all the best on your conception journey!
Make sure you get our Ten Tips for Conceiving to get the low-down on how to jump-start your baby making!
These statements have not been confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration. The information on this site is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any illness. The information is provided for educational purposes only. Please consult a professional healthcare provider with your specific concerns.
Effect of surgical repair on testosterone production in infertile men with varicocele: A meta-analysis November 2011