When seeking treatment for your varicose veins, it’s good to ask questions. No medical procedure should be taken lightly and you deserve to have a complete understanding of what to expect before, during, and after your treatment.
If one of your questions is, “How long will it take to recover from varicose vein surgery,” then rest assured that modern, minimally invasive surgical techniques allow for fast recovery and should cause little disruption to your daily routine.
How are varicose veins treated?
Varicose veins are treated with a procedure called venous closure. As the name implies, this procedure involves closing the damaged vein so that blood no longer flows through it. Your body then reabsorbs the tissue and naturally reroutes blood flow to nearby, healthy veins.
There are three different methods that can be used to close the varicose vein: thermal ablation, sclerotherapy, or vein glue. While the recovery from each of these is very similar, there are a few minor differences noted below.
What to expect immediately after varicose vein surgery
Because varicose vein surgery is minimally invasive, you won’t be put under general anesthesia. That means you won’t experience any grogginess afterwards. Technically, you can drive yourself home; although, you may be more comfortable riding in the back seat with your feet up.
After your procedure, your doctor will wrap your entire leg tightly with a compression bandage. (The only exception is for vein glue procedures). It is important that you leave the bandage in place for 24 hours as it is part of your treatment. The pressure from the bandage will help ensure your vein closes completely.
Since your procedure requires only a very small incision, you shouldn’t expect to have any sutures. Instead, there will be a steri strip on top of the incision site. Do not remove this. It will come off on its own after several days. Until then, it is helping to keep your incision closed and free from infection.
As the local anesthetic used during your procedure begins to wear off, you may experience some discomfort. You can take over-the-counter Motrin or Tylenol to help. You should not experience any severe pain and should not expect to be prescribed pain killers.
You’ll want to take it a bit easy after your surgery, and avoid any heavy lifting. However, you should have no problem returning to work if you need to. Talk to your doctor about any restrictions pertinent to your specific job duties.
While it’s OK to rest up after surgery, avoid sitting for too long. Your doctor will instruct you to walk at regular intervals for the rest of the day to promote circulation in your legs.
What to expect in the first two weeks after varicose vein surgery
Most patients report that they experience the greatest discomfort in the first 2-3 days after their varicose vein surgery. As noted earlier, this can be treated with simple, over-the-counter pain medicine. If you experience any pain that can’t be treated with Tylenol or ibuprofen, contact your doctor so they can evaluate the cause.
After removing your compression bandage, you may notice bruising and/or swelling of your leg. This is particularly true of thermal ablation procedures which require the injection of an anesthetic fluid to protect surrounding tissues. Wearing thigh-high compression stockings as much as possible for the next two weeks will promote blood flow back to your heart, control swelling, and help you heal. (Compression stockings are required for both thermal ablation and sclerotherapy procedures, but not vein glue.) Please note that if the bruising or swelling gets worse instead of better as you recover from varicose vein surgery, then you should contact your doctor.
It’s important to make regular use of your leg muscles during your recovery. Your doctor will ask you to walk frequently and not stay sitting for long periods of time. When you are sitting, keep your legs elevated to prevent blood from pooling in them.
Strenuous exercise like running or weightlifting should be avoided for at least two weeks after surgery. If you are an athlete or avid gym-goer, return to your regular fitness routine slowly and use common sense—if an activity causes pain, don’t do it.
About a week after your varicose vein surgery, expect to have a follow up visit at your doctor’s office. During this visit, your leg will be checked with ultrasound to ensure the vein has closed completely and no blood clots have formed.
How long does it take to fully recover from varicose vein surgery
After venous closure, your body will adapt by rerouting blood flow to healthy veins and absorbing the tissue of the closed vein. This process can take 2-3 months before it is complete.
During the recovery time, you may feel tightness or pulling in the leg as the treated vein begins to shrink and get reabsorbed. This will pass with time. As noted earlier, you may also have bruising and swelling. This should improve significantly after 2 weeks, but could take longer to fully heal.
Symptoms that you had before surgery, such as aching and heavy legs, should improve rapidly. However, it will take time for the visible signs of your varicose veins to go away after surgery. It’s a good idea to take before and after photos so you can track your recovery progress.
What can’t I do while recovering from varicose vein surgery?
You won’t have to restrict your activities too much while recovering from varicose vein surgery. For example, most people can go back to work the same day. Walking for exercise is encouraged starting immediately after surgery. And you can return to all but the most strenuous exercise regimes within a few weeks.
Be sure to keep your incision site dry until it has fully healed, which means you’ll want to avoid swimming or soaking in the tub for at least 48 hours after surgery.
You’ll want to avoid travel until you’ve had your initial follow up ultrasound. After that, make sure that you can still get up and move around frequently and can follow all your doctor’s instructions while traveling.
There are no dietary restrictions when having varicose vein surgery. It is also unlikely your doctor will make any changes to your medications, but be sure to inform them of all the drugs and supplements you take.
You can always contact your doctor’s office if you have questions about what is or isn’t OK while recovering from varicose vein surgery .
Tips for a healthy recovery from varicose vein surgery
Certain factors, such as the number of veins treated, the severity of your vein problems, and your overall vein health, can affect how long it takes to recover from varicose vein surgery. There isn’t a whole lot that can be done to speed the process, but it is recommended that you:
- Get plenty of rest. A healing body needs rest, so if you are tired don’t push yourself. Be sure to get enough sleep and take breaks as you need them.
- Eat a healthy diet. While there are no dietary restrictions before or after varicose vein surgery, it’s always a good idea to nourish your body with plenty of fruits and vegetables while minimizing your intake of salt, sugar, and saturated fats.
- Walk frequently. Moving your legs promotes circulation and helps your body heal. Be sure to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour for the first few days after surgery. Then, continue to walk frequently every day throughout your recovery period.
- Keep your legs elevated when sitting. Elevating your legs on a footrest while sitting helps promote circulation and reduces the chances of varicose veins recurring after surgery.
- Wear your compression stockings. While compression stockings can feel tight and uncomfortable, they are a very important component of your recovery from varicose vein surgery. Thigh-high, 20-30 mmHg stockings are what’s recommended and will provide the most support as your body heals.
- Follow all your doctor’s instructions. Your doctor knows you best and may have specific recommendations based on your individual case. Be sure to listen to their advice.
- Call your doctor with questions. No concern is too small when you are recovering from varicose vein surgery. If you have a question or problem be sure to call your doctor right away. This is particularly important if you experience any of the following:
- Worsening swelling
- Increasing pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty walking
- Any other symptom that causes you concern
The specialists at DeKalb Vein Center are here to answer all of your questions about varicose vein surgery and recovery. Please feel free to reach out to us for a consultation.