The Boys' Growing Up in the Lord

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Question

Does the appearance of varicocele in puberty affect the growth and development of the penis in a man and on general pubertal development?

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Answer

To keep blood from pooling in the lower parts of your body, your veins contain small check valves that only allow the blood to flow in one direction. If the valves are weak (leak) or fail, then blood can build up in that area. A varicocele is caused when one or more valves in the veins in the scrotum don't work properly. The result is that the veins get bigger and stretched. This causes discomfort or pain, but it can also impact the testicles in the scrotum. Because the body grows quickly during adolescence, the appearance of varicoceles more often happen during the teenage years than during childhood.

Testicles need to be a few degrees cooler than your body to operate correctly. If testicles get too warm for a long period of time, sperm is not produced and you become infertile. Thus, the most common concern with a varicocele is that it can make a man infertile because the pooling blood warms the testicles and also makes it harder for the testicles to cool off.

Sometimes the failed valves causes blood to back up into the testicles themselves. If that happens, there can be damage to them. Not only might it cause infertility, but since the testicles are the source of your testosterone, such damage can impact your development.

Varicoceles should be checked by a doctor. Some cause no symptoms and, thus, only need to be monitored. Checking for fertility impact during early adolescence is difficult since the production of sperm may not have started or is still ramping up. Testing for impact on testosterone is also difficult because it is ramping up and fluctuating greatly during early adolescence. These are things that a doctor is best suited to evaluate.