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Superficial Thrombophlebitis

(Phlebitis; Thrombophlebitis)

Pronounced: fleh-BY-tis



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



Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


Causes    TOP

A blood clot close causes superficial thrombophlebitis.


Risk Factors    TOP

Your chances of superficial thrombophlebitis are higher for:

  • Women, mainly over 65 years old
  • An injury, mainly to the lower leg
  • Blood clotting problems
  • Sitting for long periods of time
  • Prolonged bed rest
  • History of vein problems
  • Certain cancers
  • Paralysis
  • Family history of blood clotting problems
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy

Symptoms    TOP

Superficial thrombophlebitis may cause:

  • A cord like vein you can see. It may be tender when it’s touched. You may notice it develop over several hours to days.
  • Redness and warmth surrounding the vein.
  • Swelling around the vein.

Complications include:


Diagnosis    TOP

The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. You may have:

  • A physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Imaging tests such as:

Treatment    TOP

In most cases, superficial thrombophlebitis goes away on its own after a few weeks. If needed, care may involve:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
  • Exercise
  • Compression stockings
  • Warm compress on the inflamed vein
  • Elevation
  • Blood thinners
  • Procedures to remove the blood clot

Prevention    TOP

To help lower your chances of superficial thrombophlebitis:

  • Walk around the cabin and stretch your limbs every hour or so when you fly.
  • Pull over every hour or so and stretch your limbs when you drive.

American College of Phlebology

Society for Vascular Surgery


Canadian Society for Vascular Surgery

Health Canada


Superficial vein thrombosis. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116756/Superficial-vein-thrombosis-SVT . Updated April 11, 2017. Accessed July 11, 2018.

Superficial venous thrombosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/peripheral-venous-disorders/superficial-venous-thrombosis. Updated March 2018. Accessed July 11, 2018.

5/4/2015 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116756/Superficial-vein-thrombosis-SVT : Scott G, Mahdi AJ, et al. Superficial vein thrombosis: a current approach to management. Br J Haematol. 2015;168(5):639-645.

Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated: 7/11/2018

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