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.

  • Causes

    Superficial thrombophlebitis is caused by a blood clot in a vein that is close to the surface of the skin.

    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.

    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
  • 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 .

    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.