We are flesh and blood like a million other animals. So what makes us human? The opposable thumb. Standing on two feet. Losing that tail. Inventing the wheel, and maybe even the iPhone. Speaking in tongues. Laughter. Altruism. And for men, add to this the varicocele.
It’s Too Darn Hot
That’s right, the var-i-ko-seal. A squirmy, squishy set of veins that form above the testicle (generally the left) that can cause problems with male fertility, produce nagging genital pain and even lower testosterone levels. We inherited the varicocele when we stood up, back in the days of Homo erectus. Standing introduced gravity into the blood flow equation: an earthly force that directly opposes the normal uphill drainage of testicular blood toward the center of the body.
As a consequence, these petite little scrotal veins enlarge and dilate with backflow, bringing warm blood from the body into the normally cooler scrotum. Alas, the oven temperature in the genitals is raised, and ends up cooking the jewels so that they do not work as well as they should.
A Prize of Puberty
Why varicoceles start at puberty, we still don’t know. Little boys certainly stand up and they are also quite active. I think it has a lot to do with the growth spurt and the growth spurt that accompanies puberty. Rapid linear growth of these veins during this period effectively “blows” the valves within them, forming varicoceles. It also suggests that the best way to cure them is to never attain puberty. Good luck with that one!
No they don’t cause cancer, and most varicoceles go entirely unnoticed by their owners. But when they cause problems, like infertility or pain, they can certainly be a nuisance and send men running to care like a camel to water.
Although standing up was probably one of the worst things we could have done for human male fertility in the history of our species, given the fact that varicoceles are correctable, I guess it was all worth it in the end.