What is phlebitis?
Phlebitis means inflammation of a vein. Thrombophlebitis refers to a blood clot causing the inflammation. Phlebitis can be superficial, in the skin, or deep, in the tissues beneath the skin.
Superficial phlebitis is phlebitis that is in a superficial vein under the surface of the skin. Deep vein thrombophlebitis refers to a blood clot causing phlebitis in the deeper veins. Deep vein thrombophlebitis is also referred to as deep venous thrombophlebitis, deep vein thrombosis.
How common is phlebitis?
Please discuss with your doctor for further information.
What are the symptoms of phlebitis?
The common symptoms of phlebitis are:
- Hard lumps under the skin
- Skin redness
Low grade fever may accompany superficial and deep phlebitis. High fever or drainage of pus from the site of thrombophlebitis may suggest an infection of the thrombophlebitis (referred to as septic thrombophlebitis).
Palpable cords along the course of the vein may be a sign of a superficial clot or superficial thrombophlebitis.
A deep venous thrombosis may present as redness and swelling of the involved limb with pain and tenderness. In the leg, this can cause difficulty walking.
There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.
When should I see my doctor?
If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.
What causes phlebitis?
Phlebitis has many causes. Some of the common causes of phlebitis are:
- Local trauma or injury to the vein
- Prolonged inactivity, such as, long driving or plane rides
- Insertion of intravenous catheters (iv) in hospitals, or iv induced phlebitis
- Period after a surgery (post-operative period), especially orthopedic procedures
- Prolonged immobility, as in hospitalized or bed-ridden patients
- Varicose veins
- Underlying cancers or clotting disorders
- Disruption of normal venous system drainage because of removal of lymph nodes, for example, after mastectomy for breast cancer
- Intravenous drug use
- Patients with burns
What increases my risk for phlebitis?
There are many risk factors for phlebitis, such as:
- Prolonged inactivity – Staying in bed or sitting for many hours, as in a car or on an airplane, creating stagnant or slow flow of blood from the legs in a dependent position (This pooling of blood in the legs leads to thrombus formation.)
- Sedentary lifestyle – Not getting any exercise
- Smoking cigarettes
- Certain medical conditions, such as cancer or blood disorders, that increase the clotting potential of the blood
- Injury to your arms or legs
- Hormone replacement therapy or birth control pills
- Varicose veins
Diagnosis & treatment
The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.
How is phlebitis diagnosed?
Your health care provider will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms.
D-dimer is a blood test that measures a substance that is released as a blood clot dissolves. If this blood test is negative, and you have no risk factors, then it is unlikely that you have a blood clot.
Ultrasound can detect clots or blockage of blood flow, especially in larger, more proximal (upper leg) veins. A small hand-held instrument (probe) is pressed against your skin to help identify blood clots and where the obstruction is. This is a painless, noninvasive test.
Occasionally a venogram is needed to identify blood clots in the smaller, more distal veins. This is an invasive procedure that requires injecting X-ray dye or contrast material into a vein on the foot, then an X-ray is taken of the flow of the dye up the leg.
How is phlebitis treated?
There is no specific drug or treatment for phlebitis. The inflammation usually eases after a couple of weeks, but lumps and a darker colour to a patch of skin may remain for several months.
Lifestyle changes & home remedies
What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage phlebitis?
The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with phlebitis:
- Keeping a leg raised
- Wearing compression stockings
- Staying active to encourage good blood circulation
- Easing pain with a cold flannel
- Using anti-inflammatory painkillers such as aspirin
- Using anti-inflammatory cream or gel on the skin around the affected vein.
If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Review Date: October 16, 2017 | Last Modified: December 8, 2019
Phlebitis. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/phlebitis. Accessed October 17, 2017.
Phlebitis and Thrombophlebitis. https://www.medicinenet.com/phlebitis_and_thrombophlebitis/article.htm#how_is_phlebitis_treated. Accessed October 17, 2017.