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05/13/2022 Chris Preston
Thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory process that causes a blood clot to form and block one or more veins, generally in the legs. The affected vein may be near the surface of the skin (superficial thrombophlebitis) or deep within a muscle (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT).
The causes of thrombophlebitis involve trauma, surgery, or prolonged inactivity.
DVT increases the risk of severe health problems. It is generally treated with blood-thinning medications. Superficial thrombophlebitis is at times treated with blood-thinning medications, too.
Superficial thrombophlebitis signs and symptoms include:
When a vein close to the surface of the skin is affected, you may see a red, hard cord just under the surface of the skin that is tender to the touch. When a deep vein in the leg is affected, the leg might become swollen, tender, and painful.
See your doctor right away if you have a red, swollen, or tender vein — particularly if you have one or more risk factors for thrombophlebitis.
Have someone take you to your doctor or emergency room, when possible. It may be difficult for you to drive, and it is helpful to have someone with you to help you remember the information you receive.
The cause of thrombophlebitis is a blood clot, which could form in your blood as a result of:
Your risk of thrombophlebitis may increase if you:
If you have one or more risk factors, discuss prevention strategies with your doctor before taking long flights or road trips, or if you are planning to have elective surgery, recovery from which will need you not to move much.
Complications from superficial thrombophlebitis are uncommon. However, if you develop DVT, the risk of severe complications increases. Complications may include:
Sitting during a long flight or car ride can cause your ankles and calves to swell up and increases your risk of thrombophlebitis. To help prevent a blood clot:
To diagnose thrombophlebitis, your doctor will ask you about your discomfort and search for affected veins near your skin's surface. To determine whether you have superficial thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis, your doctor may choose one of these tests:
For superficial thrombophlebitis, your doctor may recommend applying heat to the painful area, elevating the affected leg, using an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and possibly wearing compression stockings. The condition generally gets better on its own.
Your doctor may also recommend these treatments for both types of thrombophlebitis: