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Superficial Thrombophlebitis

(Phlebitis; Thrombophlebitis)

Definition

Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein close to the skin surface. It happens most often in the leg. The condition is easily treatable. But, it can lead to more serious health problems.

Thrombophlebitis
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Causes

This condition is caused by a blood clot forming in the vein.

Risk Factors

Superficial thrombophlebitis is more common in women. The risk is higher in those aged 60 years or older. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • History of vein problems or blood clotting problems
  • Long term bed rest or sitting
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • An IV, injury, or recent surgery
  • Certain cancers
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Immune system problems

Symptoms

Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis may be:

  • A vein that looks like a cord
  • Redness, warmth, and tenderness around the vein
  • Swelling around the vein

It can lead to problems such as:

Diagnosis

The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Imaging tests will be done to diagnose the condition. They may include:

Treatment

Superficial thrombophlebitis often goes away on its own in a few weeks. If needed, treatment may involve:

  • Wearing compression stockings—to improve blood flow in legs
  • Exercise
  • Medicines such as:
    • NSAIDs, like ibuprofen—to ease pain and inflammation
    • Blood thinners
  • Procedures to remove the blood clot—if the problem gets worse or returns

Prevention

The risk of having this problem may be lowered by:

  • Walking around the cabin every hour—when flying
  • Pulling over every hour or so and stretching—when driving long distances
RESOURCES:

American College of Phlebology
http://www.phlebology.org

Society for Vascular Surgery
https://vascular.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery
https://vascular.ca

Health Canada
https://www.canada.ca

REFERENCES:

Heit JA, Spencer FA, White RH. The epidemiology of venous thromboembolism. J Thromb Thrombolysis. 2016;41(1):3-14.

Superficial vein thrombosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/superficial-vein-thrombosis-svt. Accessed July 21, 2021.

Superficial venous thrombosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/peripheral-venous-disorders/superficial-venous-thrombosis. Accessed July 21, 2021.

Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC  Last Updated: 7/21/2021