The ropy, bulging bands of darkly colored varicose veins on your legs can compromise your appearance, erode your confidence, and cause you embarrassment. Even worse, varicose veins could also impact your life with physical symptoms like pain, swelling, itching, throbbing, bleeding, and more, and they could be symptomatic of more serious disorders like vascular disease. In all cases, you probably want to rid yourself of these unsightly blemishes, regain the smooth skin you prefer on your legs, and address any related health concerns.
You have several options when it comes to varicose vein treatment, including minimally-invasive and highly effective procedures like sclerotherapy, endovenous laser treatment (EVLT), and ambulatory phlebectomy, all of which are offered by specialized facilities like Metro Vein Clinics. Each of these forms of treatment can eliminate existing varicose veins with far less pain and recovery time than traditional options like vein surgery (vein stripping), and they’re far more effective than completely non-invasive options like the use of compression stockings, for example.
Before you select the treatment that’s right for you, it’s important that you understand what to expect following your varicose vein treatment. Here’s what each procedure entails and how recovery generally progresses.
The Day of Treatment
Each of the three most popular minimally-invasive treatments takes a different approach to eliminating varicose veins. Sclerotherapy relies on a sclerosant, which is a medicated solution that causes blood vessels to collapse when injected into veins, after which the veins are reabsorbed into the body. The process may or may not entail the use of local anesthetic, but it is often not needed.
Sclerotherapy can be completed in as little as a few minutes in-office, although multiple sessions may be needed to remove all traces of varicose veins. Each minimally-invasive varicose vein treatment is performed on an out-patient basis, which means you can return home following the procedure. Patients are encouraged to walk, and many normal activities can be resumed within 24 hours of treatment, depending on how you feel. This treatment tends to entail the least amount of pain and recovery time.
EVLT will begin after you have been administered local anesthetic for your comfort. The treatment generally takes less than an hour and involves the insertion of a catheter into varicose veins. A laser is used to heat the vein to seal it, which will cause it to collapse.
Because the laser seals veins, there tends to be very little bleeding or pain (as opposed to much more invasive vein surgery). The day of treatment, you can return home, but you should not expect to resume normal activities for 24-48 hours, aside from short periods of walking, which are encouraged to speed the healing process.
Ambulatory phlebectomy involves the use of tiny incisions to remove varicose veins in small sections, but it is still considered minimally-invasive and you will likely only need a local anesthetic during the procedure. Affected areas will receive dressings, which should be left on for 24 hours. In both EVLT and ambulatory phlebectomy, physicians may elect to offer sedatives during treatment as a way to help patients remain calm and comfortable throughout the procedure, so it’s best to plan for someone else to drive you home.
It is normal to experience some amount of bruising, swelling, discomfort, and feelings of tightness in the legs following any varicose vein treatment. These symptoms will subside over time, but if you’re worried about pain symptoms, be sure to contact your physicians.
In all cases, you must follow after-care instructions provided by the experienced physicians at Metro Vein Centers. These may include leaving dressings in place for the first 24 hours, wearing compression stockings, avoiding immersion in water, avoiding heavy lifting and strenuous activities, and resting. You may be advised to apply ice and take over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen to minimize discomfort.
The First 24-48 Hours
Unless dressings are applied immediately following treatment, you should expect to wear compression stockings around the clock for the first couple of days after varicose vein treatment. Your physician will likely recommend that you get up and walk for at least 30 minutes each day to encourage circulation and healing, and this generally begins the same day as your procedure. Often, physicians encourage patients to get up and walk for a few minutes each hour for the first couple of days.
Following sclerotherapy, you may feel comfortable resuming normal activities within the first 24 hours, but you’ll want to rest for the first 24-48 hours after EVLT and ambulatory phlebectomy. With the latter, you should also try to keep your legs elevated for the first couple of days, so don’t plan to return to work or other normal activities for at least 2-3 days. Heavy lifting and other strenuous activities are discouraged during this time, as is soaking, especially in hot water.
1-2 Weeks after Treatment
As mentioned above, recovery from sclerotherapy is particularly quick, and patients can generally expect to resume all normal activities almost immediately, as well as get back to exercising and other intensive activities just a few days after the procedure. That said, compression stockings should still be worn, at least during the day, for the first 1-2 weeks.
For both EVLT and ambulatory phlebectomy, strenuous activities such as jogging, cycling, swimming, aerobics, and weight lifting should be avoided for about two weeks in order to ensure optimal healing. During this time, patients should also avoid standing for long periods of time. Soaking should be avoided, as should long-hot showers that could cause veins to dilate. Compression stockings should be worn for the first 1-2 weeks after varicose vein treatment.
Usually, physicians will schedule a follow-up exam in the days following treatment to check progress and provide further recovery information if necessary.
2-4 Weeks after Treatment, and Beyond
Regardless of the type of varicose vein treatment you receive from the qualified professionals at Metro Vein Centers, you should be fully healed within about a month, provided you follow your aftercare instructions. After two weeks you should be able to resume all activities, including exercise, but in the case of ambulatory phlebectomy, caution is recommended for the first four weeks. With proper care, you can get the most out of your varicose vein treatment and enjoy a speedy recovery.