Varicoceles are large, twisted veins that drain blood from the testicles. They are much like varicose veins of the leg. Most often, they occur after puberty on the left side of the scrotum. Once a varicocele is present, it will not go away on its own.
Most people with varicoceles have no symptoms. Some do feel pain. The pain can vary from a dull, heavy discomfort to a sharp pain. The pain may increase with sitting, standing or strenuous activity. It usually resolves when lying flat on the back.
The testicle on the side with the varicocele may be smaller in size than the one on the opposite side. The affected testicle may not grow well and may not produce good sperm when it is time. The scrotum (sac) may appear swollen.
Varicoceles are usually found by the patient's family doctor on a routine physical exam. The individual stands, takes a deep breath and holds it, while the doctor examines the scrotal sac. Varicoceles vary in size and may become larger and more visible as time passes. An ultrasound of the scrotum may be done.