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Varicose Veins and Vein Stripping: My Experience

Updated on November 18, 2011

varicose veins treatment

If you have varicose veins, you might find this article interesting. It’s an account of my personal experience with varicose veins and vein stripping. Actually, I didn’t have varicose veins, plural. I had a single varicose vein running just about the entire length of my left leg, on the outside of my thigh and calf. This particular varicose vein was caused by a rather unique injury. When I was having my second daughter and my legs were in the stirrups, I somehow banged the side of my left knee on the metal, and a large bruise and knot followed. For the next couple of days, I wasn’t moving around much, and a blood clot formed at the site of the injury. My mom, a nurse, told me she was pretty sure it was a clot, and I knew how dangerous blood clots could be, so I returned to my doctor. He confirmed that there was, indeed, a clot. He explained, however, that blood clots in the location where mine was were rarely dangerous. I had to take aspirin for a few days, and the clot dissolved. I was out of danger, but I had a lasting effect from the experience.

Over the next few months, I noticed that the affected vein was becoming larger and more prominent. After awhile, it had an ugly, ropy appearance. It was also painful. Actually, achy is probably a more apt way to describe it. At the end of every day, that leg would be very tired and heavy feeling, and sometimes it would throb. The vein became so horrific looking and bothersome that I finally decided to see a doctor about it.

Leg veins are especially susceptible to becoming varicose veins.
Leg veins are especially susceptible to becoming varicose veins.

Varicose veins treatment - varicose vein surgery

I saw a local surgeon – one with whom I’d gone to high school. He closely examined both my legs and was surprised to find no other varicose veins in either appendage. I didn’t even have any spider veins. Once I explained the injury and the blood clot to him, he nodded and said he’d seen that before. He suggested I have varicose vein surgery to completely remove the vein.

He said the surgery would be done on out-patient basis and wouldn’t require an overnight stay in the hospital. He’d use general anesthesia. I had never had any type of surgery before, and I wasn’t too keen on being “put to sleep.” He promised they’d take good care of me, and that after the surgery, there wouldn’t be much pain. He assured me that the surgery would be well worth it, so I consented.

What is vein stripping?

The type of varicose vein surgery I was to have is called vein stripping. With vein stripping, several small incisions are made along the leg near the vein. Usually, the vein is removed in sections with a plastic wire. Sometimes an entire vein might be able to be removed in a single section. The number of incisions you have will depend on the varicose veins and on your surgeon, but with leg veins, you’ll always have an incision in your groin and one at the other end of the vein. My varicose vein surgery took about 90 minutes.

I had nine small incisions in all – eight up and down my leg and one in my grown. The eight leg incisions were held together with small staples – four per incision – for a total of 32. The incision in my groin was sutured. Sounds painful, huh? It wasn’t. In fact, I didn’t even have to take aspirin or Tylenol. The effects of the general anesthesia were much, much worse than the surgery itself. I was nauseous for hours and vomited up bile repeatedly.

The results of my varicose vein surgery

My scars healed nicely. My varicose vein surgery was done almost thirty years ago, and a couple of the scars are visible, but they look a heck of a lot better than that ugly vein. The scars are about an inch long, and the most visible is the one that’s right by my left knee – where the clot was. Getting rid of that leg vein was awesome. My leg doesn’t hurt anymore, and it doesn’t get that tired feeling that varicose veins can cause.

As soon as my staples were removed, I began wearing shorts and capris again, which I hadn’t done in years. I had made myself believe that the reason I didn’t want to show my legs was because they were big, but I discovered the real reason was because I was so ashamed of that unsightly snake-like varicose vein.

Modern varicose veins treatment and spider vein removal

Like I said, my varicose vein surgery was almost thirty years ago, and now there are other spider veins and varicose veins treatment options. If you suffer from varicose veins or spider veins, make an appointment at a vein clinic, where they specialize in veins.

You might be able to take advantage of sclerotherapy, for example. Sclerotherapy is a non-surgical treatment for varicose veins and spider veins that uses an injection into the problem vein. With sclerotherapy, the treated vein will gradually disappear.

Another treatment for varicose veins and spider veins is a type of laser vein removal known as pulsed light. With this treatment, a pulsing laser light makes the veins dissolve by sealing them off. In most cases, several such treatments are needed.

You might also have the option of VNUS – radiofrequency occlusion. With VNUS, sound waves are used to cause the vein to collapse.

EVLT is a very popular treatment for varicose veins. The letters stand for Endovenous Laser Treatment, and this laser vein removal procedure can be done in your doctor’s office in around thirty minutes. With EVLT, a thin laser fiber is threaded directly into the vein, and the heat causes the vein to shrink. After awhile, the vein will disappear completely.

Not every surgeon or vein clinic uses all these options, and your spider veins and varicose veins treatment options will also depend on how large the vein is. Some vein treatments, like some laser vein removal, can be done in the office, without even having to check into a hospital. Also, some options might have to be performed more than once, while others might be able to do the job with just one treatment. If you have varicose veins or spider veins, be sure to explore all your treatment options before deciding on which is best for you.

EVLT varicose veins treatment:

Laser vein removal:



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    • Tamara14 profile image

      Tamara Kajari 3 years ago from Zagreb, Croatia, Europe

      Thank you for this useful hub. I am definitely at risk of developing varicose veins, knowing the stories of almost every female relatives from my mother's side. So far I benefit a lot from regular yoga and healthy eating, but heredity is impossible to avoid I guess so I like to be informed in time.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 4 years ago from Georgia

      Gail, sorry to hear that. Wow - that's really young for varicose veins. Did you have some medical condition that caused them?

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 4 years ago from Georgia

      fairy, how have you done since the surgery?

    • profile image

      Gail Robinson 4 years ago

      I was 19 when i had my veins stripped at the time i thought they had healed but now in my 40s they are worse and very painful.

    • givingfairy profile image

      givingfairy 5 years ago from some place in the Big Apple

      Great information. Thanks for sharing your experience . I can identify as I recently had varicose treatment surgery.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, HH. I assume varicose veins treatment options are about the same in the UK?

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

      That is an informative article and so detailed. Great writing, Holle,

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Exactly, MPG. I don't regret my vein stripping at all. I didn't have a lot of options. The vein was so large and so damaged that the doc said stripping was prolly the only thing that would work. Of course, that was before some of the newer varicose veins treatment options. Still, with the size of that bugger, I might still have had to have the vein stripping, even today.

    • MPG Narratives profile image

      Marie Giunta 5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      Thanks for your account of vein surgery Habee and to have had it done 30 years ago with success is great.

      I've had EVLT done twice on both legs. My right leg no longer hurts and looks ok but my left leg occasionally still aches and I've been left with ugly purple, reddish spider veins in place of the large longer one that was 'burnt'. Although the left leg doesn't look great, the pain I was in before the EVLT has gone, so I guess for that it was successful.

      As varicose veins run in my family (on both sides) I wasn't surprised when the EVLT didn't fully work. I suggest anyone contemplating having any type of vein surgery done to investigate all types well before making a decision.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      Thanks, jenu. My 29-yr-old daughter has spider veins. She's thin and healthy, but she's on her feet all day as a nurse.

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      fpherj, sounds like something my grands would say! Seriously, get the varicoes veins taken care of. You'll be SO glad you did!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 5 years ago from Georgia

      jfay, from what I understand, spider veins are harmless, but some varicose veins aren't.

    • profile image

      jenubouka 5 years ago

      I really loved this article for I have the spider veins due to the work I do and would like to have them gone someday....Great info

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      I THANK you so much for sharing this experience. My legs are a MESS....especially my left. 4 pregnancies, 45 years of working (on my feet), but mostly heredity. I rarely wear shorts, but my main complaint is the discomfort and throbbing at the end of a busy day. I have needed to make an appnt. for a very long time. You have inspired me to get moving! and I have a cute story that will make you chuckle.....My 4 year old granddaughter was sitting with me on the couch and I had my legs up. We were in our nightgowns and she noticed an especially big, ugly vein that runs down my shin to my ankle....and said, "Gramma, what's THAT?!" I told her it is a "varicose vein." No comment. Later that evening when she saw her Mom, she said, "Mom, do you know Gramma has a VERY CLOSE VEIN on her leg??"

    • jfay2011 profile image

      jfay2011 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I have a few very small beginnings of some on my leg and the little spider ones. My mom had it really bad on her lower leg. She used to have a special nylon she would wear for it sometimes. People didn't get it treated back then.