Last week I had the privilege of having some varicose veins removed from my left leg. Fun stuff, right? Well, I thought I would share about that fun here on my blog! I had these removed last Thursday by ‘endovenous laser ablation’ and ‘ambulatory phlebectomy.’ Thankfully, both procedures could be done at the same time in my doctor’s office, though I did have to go back two separate days to get everything completed.
Before I go too much further with this post, I’m just going to let you know now that I’ll be showing pictures of my leg at various states of healing, including the before picture with the bulging varicose veins. This is actually a hard post for me to write, only because even reading about this procedure before I had it done was almost too much for me. It literally almost made me pass out on several occasions, which is partially why I’m writing about this NOW, after the fact, because I honestly don’t think I would have been able to go through with it if I had thought about it anymore beforehand. 🙂 Even when my daughter asked before the procedure how they were going to remove the veins, I said, “I have no idea…and I don’t want to know.” Ok, so I kind of knew some of the details, but I purposely didn’t want to know too much. It just made me feel sick to my stomach.
I also purposely held off on saying anything online because I didn’t want to hear anyone else’s horror stories about the procedure going wrong! So…I kept my mouth shut (or fingers still?) until after everything was done and over. 🙂
So, anyway, a little background story first. I’ve been told on many occasions that I have “good veins.” Nurses love the veins in my arms when they need to draw blood because they’re very noticeable and right on the surface. Last summer, I started noticing that the veins behind my left leg were popping out a little bit. I didn’t think a whole lot of it then, but as the summer progressed, it started to bother me a little bit. Here I am, a runner and in pretty good shape, and I’m embarrassed to show off my legs in shorts or a dress? So when this past summer came around and I realized it was getting worse, I knew I needed to do something about it. I made an appointment with a vein clinic here in Fort Wayne and right away they told me I had varicose veins and they would need to be removed. Even though I wasn’t having any pain in my leg yet…the pain would eventually start. He did an ultrasound on both of my legs and saw that the blood flow was moving in the wrong direction in this particular vein (the one that was bulging out). In a nutshell, this particular vein had incompetent valves. These valves should allow blood to be brought back to the heart in an upward motion, but instead, the vessels in my leg were allowing blood to fall back down toward my foot due to this malfunctioning. This increased pressure, over time, caused the vein to dilate and would have eventually caused pain and maybe even swollen ankles, skin breakdown, tired legs, etc. So, not only was it a cosmetic (vanity) concern for me, it was also a real medical issue.
After my initial ultrasound consultation, I had to wear compression hose for a while (because insurance requires it) and then I was able to schedule the actual procedure. On day one of the procedure, the doctor treated the area behind my knee and my calf area. First, he needed to remove the bulging varicose vein. This is what’s called an ambulatory phlebectomy. They numbed the area over my vein with little ‘bee sting’ shots and then removed segments of the vein through a small needlestick. Pressure was applied over each area and the blood flow was redirected through competent veins. (I still don’t really understand how that all works…) Anyway, after he removed the bulging vein, then I had the laser treatment. Once again, my leg was numbed and the doctor entered the vein through a needle and then thread a laser filament into the vein using ultrasound for guidance. Once the laser was in place, the vein was numbed and pulses of laser energy were emitted into the vein. This caused the vein to close and scar down, impending future blood flow through that vessel. Doing this will actually improve the overall circulation in my leg!
On day two of the procedure, he just needed to laser the upper inside portion of my thigh. Honestly, I had no idea that that portion of my leg needed work, but I guess it makes sense! The procedure was super quick and mostly pain-free, except for one of the numbing sticks that hit me just right and made me jump.
So, what are the causes of varicose veins? I asked the doctor if it was because I’ve run so much over my lifetime, but he said that wasn’t the case. He said it was due to heredity and my genes, so there wasn’t much I could do. It can also be caused by pregnancy, obesity, prolonged standing, and hormonal influences, so I’m guessing having a twin pregnancy may have ‘encouraged’ mine to develop sooner in life? It’s hard to say, but I’m glad I have that behind me. At least for now. I’m sure one of these days I’ll develop varicose veins in my right leg, but fingers crossed that doesn’t happen for a long, long time!
Right now I’m still in the recovery stage. The doctor said I can’t run for a full week afterwards, but it’s mostly because I wouldn’t want to (rather that not being allowed to). And he’s right. I have no interest in running yet! I’m walking about the pace of a snail right now. I can’t fully bend my leg, so therefore I can’t move quickly. And going down stairs is a super slow process…so the thought of doing squats and lunges is definitely out right now! I’m hoping I’ll regain more movement every day and, fingers crossed, I’ll be back to mostly normal by next week sometime? I’m definitely getting anxious to workout again, but I know I need to rest for now and be smart…and I am. 🙂
The day after my second procedure was pretty rough as far as pain and lack of movement, so I took quite a few ibuprofen that day. I went a few days without taking anything…and then I had to start back up again yesterday. The bruised area behind my knee is SO sore and it’s hard to get full movement without pain when I walk. It will take me over a month to fully recover, but I’m taking it day by day right now. A balance of rest and activity is what’s recommended for recovery. They actually want me up on my feet periodically, which I wish I could say took some effort…but with three young kids, it would be impossible for me to relax with my feet up all day. 😉
So, if you want to see pictures…here you go…
The picture on the very left is what my veins looked like before going in for the procedure. Not pretty, right? I have strong legs…but I was embarrassed to show them off this past summer! And I knew it was only a matter of time before they started to become painful due to improper functioning. The next picture was taken after coming home from the first procedure. They removed the bulging vein and lasered the back of my leg. I had to wear the ACE bandage for 24 hours because a few of the spots didn’t want to stop bleeding. The next picture is what my leg looked like after taking the bandage off. See all those lovely cotton swabs? Each one of those was from a ‘bee sting’ numbing shot! And, finally, the image on the right is what my leg looks like right now, today, one week after my initial procedure. That dark bruise behind my knee is what’s causing all my discomfort these days. It’s incredibly sore. It also tingles if I stand for too long…but it becomes super tight if I sit for too long, so a balance of walking and sitting is best.
I’m wearing compression hose on my left leg during the daytime now and I’ll continue that for another full week. I definitely can’t wait to get this thing off me for good; it makes my leg so itchy! (And it’s just annoying to take on and off each day, when I can barely bend my leg as it is!)
So, that’s it…my varicose vein removal procedure! Anyone else have this done? How long did it take before you felt 100% back to normal again? (If it’s longer than a month…I don’t really want to know. ha!) 😉
Update 1: It took about 2 weeks for the pain and bruising to go away AND until I could workout again.
Update 2: When I went in for my one month follow up, I was still seeing some ‘bulging veins’ behind my knee. I was really concerned I was going to have to go through the whole procedure again and take yet another two weeks off of working out due to barely being able to walk! However, thankfully, the doctor told me all he needed to do was inject some medication directly into the veins and that will hopefully help them collapse and close completely. Some portions will be reabsorbed by my leg over time, but the other portion was still open. He said to expect the vein that was injected with medication to be really hard for about a month. If after a month it is still soft, it means it did not close and I’ll have to come back in for another shot of medication. After a couple of months, everything should be looking good and working properly. 🙂 Oh, and an ultrasound of my entire leg shows that everything else is good to go!