By Robert Preidt
Stanford University School of Medicine researchers wanted to find out if varicoceles increases the risk for other health problems.
"Varicoceles are associated with low testosterone, and low testosterone in turn is associated with metabolic risks and heart disease," study lead author Dr. Nancy Wang said in a university news release.
Wang, a urology resident, and her colleagues analyzed the medical insurance records of 4,400 men with varicoceles and thousands of men without the condition.
Overall, the researchers found that men with varicoceles seemed to have a higher risk of heart disease. They also appeared more likely to have metabolic disease such as diabetes and high levels of fat in the blood (hyperlipidemia).
But further investigation showed that only varicoceles patients with symptoms, especially scrotal pain and fertility problems, were at increased risk for these diseases.
More research is needed, however, before any recommendations can be made, the study authors said.
They acknowledged that the study found a strong correlation between varicoceles and heart disease, but further research is needed to determine if there's a cause and effect.
"While these results make a strong case that varicoceles are associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, we do not yet know if we will need to change our present management for the estimated 17 million U.S. men with varicoceles," said Dr. Keith Jarvi, head of urology at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
"The big question is, is a varicocele just a marker of men's health or could repair of the varicocele actually improve men's health in the long term?" said Jarvi, who wasn't involved in the study.
The findings were published online Dec. 1 in the journal Andrology.