Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein close to the surface of the skin. It occurs most often in the leg. The condition is easily treatable, though it sometimes leads to more serious health concerns. ThrombophlebitisCopyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Causes

    Superficial thrombophlebitis

    is caused by

    a blood clot

    in a vein that is close to the surface of the skin.

  • Definition

    Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein close to the surface of the skin. It occurs most often in the leg. The condition is easily treatable, though it sometimes leads to more serious health concerns.

    Thrombophlebitis
    si55551333 96472 1 thrombophlebitis.jpg
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

    Tests may include the following:


    • X-ray or
      ultrasound
      to check for deeper blood clots
    • Venogram in which dye or contrast is injected
    • Screening for blood disorders with recurrent episodes of phlebitis

  • Prevention

    To help reduce your chances of superficial thrombophlebitis, take these steps:

    • If you fly for long periods of time, walk around the cabin and stretch your limbs every hour or so.
    • If you drive for long periods of time, pull over every hour or so and stretch your limbs.
    • Avoid wearing tight clothing around your waist.
    • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that increase your chance of developing superficial thrombophlebitis include:

    • Trauma especially to the lower leg
    • Blood clotting disorder
    • Sitting for long periods of time, such as riding in a car or on an airplane
    • Prolonged bed rest
    • Prior episodes of phlebitis
    • Certain cancers

    • Paralysis, which may be caused by a
      stroke
    • Family history of blood clotting disorders
    • Obesity
    • Pregnancy

  • Symptoms

    Superficial thrombophlebitis may cause:

    • A very visible, cord-like vein that is tender and sensitive to pressure. This visibility may develop over several hours to days.
    • Redness and warmth surrounding the vein.
    • Swelling around the vein.


    A complication of superficial thrombophlebitis is a condition called
    deep vein thrombosis
    (DVT). This is a blood clot in the deeper veins that causes obstruction of blood flow. This can lead to
    pulmonary embolism
    , a serious situation that occurs when the blood clot breaks free and gets lodged in the lungs.

  • Treatment

    In most cases, superficial thrombophlebitis goes away on its own after a few weeks. Treatment can be done at home with the following:

    • Oral or topical nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
    • Exercise
    • Compression stockings
    • Warm compress on the inflamed vein
    • Elevation


    If you are diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis, follow your doctor's
    instructions
    .