Varicoceles are created when veins become abnormally enlarged inside your scrotum. These veins are called the pampiniform plexus. Ten to 15 of every 100 males have a varicocele which can start growing as soon as they hit puberty. It is like getting a varicose vein in your leg and hardly carries any symptoms. The internal adverse effect of varicocele on spermatogenesis can be attributed to many factors such as an increased testicular temperature, increased intra-testicular pressure, hypoxia due to reduction of blood flow, reflux of toxic metabolites from the adrenal glands and hormonal profile abnormalities.
Varicocele may be the cause of male fertility problems in about 4 out of 10 men who have problems fathering their first child, according the American Urological Association. Varicocele, being the second most common cause in male infertility has affected 35–50% of patients with primary infertility and up to 81% of men with secondary infertility. The surprisingly high incidence of varicocele in secondary infertility suggests that varicoceles cause progressive decline in testicular function over time.
A varicocele causes an increase in the temperature of the testicles, which affects sperm development. Sperm counts decrease by an estimated 40% for every degree the testicles rise in temperature. Also, varicocele is related to lower testosterone levels, which may result in a number of long-term health conditions and can also affect sex drive. It has moreover been associated with DNA damage in sperm. Studies suggest that men with varicocele have more damaged sperm than men who do not suffer from the problem. Testicular inflammation, swollen veins in the scrotum, and abnormally developed testicles can cause abnormal sperm.
The aim of acupuncture is to increased sperm count and improve the quality of motile sperm. According to a study by Kyung Hee University in Korea, the use of acupuncture and herbs helps improve the scrotal thermoregulation, reducing the heat in the scrotum. A recent study in 2016 compared surgical versus acupuncture treatment of men who were infertile due to varicocles in the testes. It was found that both methods were successful in improving sperm parameters although acupuncture was superior to surgery when performed twice a week for 2 months. Sperm concentration and motility improved significantly in both groups after the treatment. Increase in sperm concentration was higher in the acupuncture group compared to the varicocelectomy group.
Natural therapies may be complementary to support the health of the tissues and vein walls, improve circulation to the testes, and improve cellular health to protect the sperm and reproductive tissues from free radical and toxin damage through specific nutrient and herbal support.
CoQ10 (or Ubiquinol) are antioxidants to protect the sperm and delicate DNA within the sperm from free radical damage. Selenium are minerals necessary for proper sperm formation. It is easy to get adequate selenium intake by eating 2-5 Brazil nuts a day. A trial confirmed that selenium supplementation in subfertile men with low selenium status can improve sperm motility and the chance of successful conception by up to 56%. Lastly, L-Carnitine is also important to sperm health. L-Carnitine is a potent anti-oxidant that has been reported to increase sperm health by providing the protection the body needs to counteract free radical damage and increase libido naturally. Antioxidants protect cellular health, including the health of a man’s sperm and the DNA contained within each sperm.
When it comes to varicocele and male infertility, acupuncture and natural treatments can be very successful in helping a man restore his fertility.
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- The Role of Varicocele Repair in the New Era of Assisted Reproductive Technology. Marcello Cocuzza, Mariana Amora Cocuzza, Frances Monette Papa Bragais, and Ashok Agarwal
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- Varicocele: a progressive or static lesion? Witt MA, Lipshultz LI Urology. 1993 Nov; 42(5):541-3.
- Improvements in Scrotal Thermoregulation in Patients with Varicoceles Treated by Using Traditional Korean Medicine: Two Case Reports. Junyoung Jo, Hyunho Kim, Ui Min Jerng
- Randomised clinical trial of comparing effects of acupuncture and varicocelectomy on sperm parameters in infertile varicocele patients. Kucuk EV, Bindayi A, Boylu U, Onol FF, Gumus E.
- The effect of oral selenium supplementation on human sperm motility. Scott R, MacPherson A, Yates RW, Hussain B, Dixon J.
- A placebo-controlled double-blind randomized trial of the use of combined L-carnitine and L-acetyl-carnitine treatment in men with asthenozoospermia. Fertility and Sterility p. 1578–1584, Vol. 81, Issue 6, June. Lenzi, Andrea, M.D., et al. (2004).
- Use of carnitine therapy in selected cases of male factor infertility: a double-blind crossover trial. Fertility and Sterility p. 292–300, Vol. 79, No. 2, February. Lenzi, Andrea, M.D., et al. (2003).