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.
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is caused by
a blood clot
in a vein that is close to the surface of the skin.
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
- Family history of blood clotting disorders
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.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include the following:
to check for deeper blood clots
- Venogram in which dye or contrast is injected
- Screening for blood disorders with recurrent episodes of phlebitis
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)
- Compression stockings
- Warm compress on the inflamed vein
If you are diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis, follow your doctor's
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.
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Last reviewed August 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Brian Randall, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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