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Understanding Varicocele in Older People

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Varicoceles are a relatively common condition that occurs when the veins in the scrotum become enlarged and twisted. Read the article to know more.

Written by

Dr. Surabhi M

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Published At September 1, 2023
Reviewed AtSeptember 1, 2023

What Is a Varicocele?

Varicocele is a disease that happens when the veins within the scrotum become enlarged and twisted. This can result in reduced blood flow to the testicles and may lead to discomfort, pain, and infertility. Varicoceles are generally found on the left side of the scrotum but can occur on both sides. The exact cause of varicoceles is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a malfunctioning of the valves within the veins that control blood flow.

Varicoceles are more common in men between the ages of 15 and 25 and may not cause any symptoms in some individuals. In older men, varicoceles may be associated with other medical conditions, such as prostate enlargement, kidney problems, or tumors. In some cases, the presence of a varicocele in an older man may indicate an underlying health issue that requires further investigation.

However, for those who do experience symptoms, these may include a dull ache or discomfort in the scrotum, a sense of heaviness in the scrotum, or noticeable swelling. In some cases, varicoceles may also cause infertility, as reduced blood flow to the testicles can affect sperm production.

What Causes a Varicocele?

Varicoceles in older men may have similar causes as those in younger men, but there may be additional factors that increase the risk of developing this condition in later life. Some possible causes of varicocele in older men include:

  • Testicular Atrophy: As men age, the testicles may shrink and lose their elasticity, which can affect the function of the valves within the veins that control blood flow.

  • Pelvic Tumors: Tumors in the pelvic region can put pressure on the veins that drain the testicles, causing them to become enlarged and twisted.

  • Prostate Enlargement: An enlarged prostate can cause compression of the veins that drain the testicles, leading to the development of varicoceles.

  • Kidney Problems: Conditions that affect kidney function, such as kidney failure or renal vein thrombosis, can interfere with blood circulation in the veins in the scrotum, leading to varicoceles.

  • Inherited Factors: Some individuals may have a genetic predisposition to developing varicoceles, which can increase the risk of developing this condition in later life.

What Are the Symptoms of a Varicocele?

Varicoceles may not always cause symptoms, especially in older men. However, when symptoms do occur, they may include:

  • A Dull Ache or Discomfort in the Scrotum: This pain may be more noticeable after standing or sitting for a long time or after physical activity.

  • Visible Swelling or Enlargement of the Veins in the Scrotum: Varicoceles may be felt as a soft "bag of worms" of enlarged veins that can be noticed or touched through the skin of the scrotum.

  • A Feeling of Heaviness in the Scrotum: This sensation may be accompanied by a dragging or pulling feeling.

  • Testicular Atrophy: Over time, varicoceles can cause the affected testicle to shrink or become smaller than the unaffected testicle.

  • Infertility: Varicoceles can cause reduced blood flow to the testicles, which can affect sperm production and lead to infertility.

It is important for individuals who experience scrotal pain, discomfort, or swelling to seek medical attention to diagnose the underlying cause of these symptoms, as they may be related to various health conditions, including varicoceles.

How Is a Varicocele Diagnosed?

The diagnosis of varicocele is typically made through a physical exam, medical history review, and possibly imaging tests. Here are the steps that may be involved in the diagnosis of varicocele:

  • Physical Exam: Includes a physical examination of the scrotum to look for signs of swelling, enlargement, or twisting of the veins. The exam may also include a check for any tenderness or discomfort in the scrotum.

  • Medical History Review: The healthcare provider may ask about any symptoms the patient has been experiencing, as well as their medical history and any medications they are taking.

  • Imaging Tests: In some cases, imaging tests such as ultrasound or Doppler ultrasound may be used to confirm the diagnosis of varicocele or to rule out other potential causes of scrotal swelling or discomfort.

If a varicocele is diagnosed, the patient may be recommended further testing to evaluate the function of the affected testicle and to check for any potential complications such as infertility. Treatment options may also be discussed depending on the severity of the varicocele and whether or not it is causing symptoms or complications.

How to Manage Varicocele in Older People?

The management of varicoceles in older people depends on the severity of the condition, the presence of symptoms, and the individual's overall health. Here are some possible management options:

  • Observation: If the varicocele is small and not causing any discomfort or other symptoms, it is recommended to monitor the condition over time to see if it worsens or causes problems.

  • Pain Management: If the varicocele is causing discomfort or pain, over-the-counter pain medications such as Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen may be recommended. A scrotal support or compression garment may also help alleviate symptoms.

  • Surgery: If the varicocele is large or causing symptoms such as pain, testicular atrophy, or infertility, surgical treatment may be recommended. The two main surgical options are open surgery and laparoscopic surgery, and the goal of the surgery is to tie off the affected veins or reroute blood flow to healthier veins.

  • Lifestyle Changes: Some lifestyle changes may help manage varicoceles, such as avoiding prolonged sitting or standing, wearing loose-fitting clothing, and avoiding heavy lifting or strenuous exercise.

In some cases, treating an underlying condition such as prostate enlargement or kidney disease may also help improve the symptoms of varicoceles.


Varicoceles are a relatively common disorder that occurs when the veins in the scrotum become enlarged and twisted. While they can occur at any age, they are more common in older men. Varicoceles are typically harmless and do not require treatment, although they can cause pain or discomfort in some cases. In rare cases, varicoceles can lead to complications such as infertility, testicular atrophy, or embolism. If an individual is experiencing symptoms or has concerns about a varicocele, it is crucial to speak with a healthcare specialist to determine the best course of action based on the individual needs and medical history.

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Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan
Dr. Abdul Aziz Khan

Medical oncology


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