Superficial Thrombophlebitis

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Superficial thrombophlebitis happens in veins close to the surface of your skin. The vein becomes inflamed from a blood clot.

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 Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
  • Prior episodes of phlebitis
  • Certain cancers
  • Paralysis
  • Family history of blood clotting disorders
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
diagram of blood clot in veins of the leg
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Superficial Thrombophlebitis Symptoms

Superficial thrombophlebitis may cause:

  • A very visible, cord-like vein that is tender and sensitive to pressure
  • Redness and warmth surrounding the vein
  • Swelling around the vein

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

Diagnostic Tests

Tests may include the following:

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

Treating & Preventing Superficial Thrombophlebitis

In most cases, superficial thrombophlebitis goes away on its own after a few weeks. If needed, we can encourage healing with:

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

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

  • If you sit for long periods of time, make sure to get up and stretch at least once an hour
  • Avoid wearing tight clothing around your waist
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration

 

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.