A varicocele is an abnormal dilation of veins around the testicle. Approximately 15% of men in the general population and 40% of men presenting with infertility have varicoceles. In fact, varicocele is the most common correctable form of male infertility. It has been well established that varicoceles can worsen semen parameters overtime such as sperm counts, motility, and morphology. Varicoceles can also increase the percentage of sperm cells with DNA damage (fragmentation) which can decrease fertilization rates, pregnancy rates, and increase miscarriage rates.
Oxidative stress is a process which occurs when excessive levels of what are known as reactive oxygen species are present. Oxidative stress has an adverse effect on male fertility by impacting sperm cell membranes and proteins, causing a process known as apoptosis (programmed cell death), and causing sperm DNA damage. It has previously been demonstrated that varicoceles increase oxidative stress. The team at AFRM performed a several year clinical trial enrolling men with infertility and varicoceles and recently published the results in the urology gold journal. This clinical trial is the first to demonstrate that surgical repair of varicoceles through a relative minor surgery can improve oxidative stress along with improving semen parameters and decreasing DNA damage rates. Dr. Parviz Kavoussi states, “The old data that varicoceles are bad for basic semen parameters is just the tip of the iceberg for the effect on a man’s fertility. Although that is important, we are continuing to get a better understanding of how varicoceles can adversely affect the function of sperm cells through DNA damage and oxidative stress. Now with the data in this study we know that an additional benefit infertile men can achieve by undergoing varicocele repair is decreasing oxidative stress as well.”
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