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What is Phlebitis?

May 5, 2023 • mdconnect • Blood ClotsVein Treatment

Phlebitis is a potentially serious condition that can cause red, swollen areas to form, usually in the leg. It can result from a clot in a vein that blocks blood flow. There are different degrees of phlebitis, one being a significant medical concern. Therefore, it is essential to understand phlebitis so you know which one requires treatment.

What is Phlebitis?

Phlebitis, often called thrombophlebitis, is an inflammatory condition that can cause a blood clot to form in one or more veins. This can happen due to the following:
  • An injury to the vein
  • Surgery
  • A blood clotting disorder
  • Immobility for long periods
There are two types of phlebitis: superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Of the two, deep vein thrombosis is the more serious.

What is Superficial Thrombophlebitis?

Superficial thrombophlebitis is a blood clot that forms near the skin’s surface. With superficial thrombophlebitis, you might notice the following:
  • A warm, tender spot
  • Redness and swelling
You might also feel a hard cord when the clot forms close to the skin. A superficial blood clot may resolve on its own. However, the doctor may suggest you apply heat to the area and elevate your leg. You could also use an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory if your healthcare provider recommends it.

What Is a DVT?

A DVT is a blood clot that forms in a vein located deep in the muscle, usually in the leg. With a DVT, you might notice the following:
  • Pain in the leg
  • A hot spot
  • Redness and swelling
Some people have DVTs with no symptoms, as well. A DVT is a particular concern because of the risk of a piece of the clot breaking away. It can travel up through the network of veins and cause a blockage to a critical area like the heart, lungs, or even the brain. A DVT can result in a stroke or pulmonary embolism, which are medical emergencies. You should go to the emergency room if you experience:
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing up blood
  • Severe headache
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Paralysis, especially on one side

What Are the Risk Factors for Phlebitis?

Anyone can develop phlebitis. However, there are factors that can increase your risk, such as:
  • Age
  • Varicose veins
  • Pregnancy
  • Birth control pills or hormone treatments
  • Family history
  • Medical history of stork
  • Obesity

What Is the Treatment for Phlebitis?

For superficial clots, the treatment is usually self-care. For DVT’s the doctor might want to put you on blood thinners or clot-dissolving medication. There are also procedures like vein stripping that can remove clots. As with most things, though, the best treatment is prevention. There are lifestyle changes you can take that will reduce your risk.


The key is to stay active. Make sure you get up and walk throughout the day, especially if you have a job that puts you behind a desk. You also want to move around during a long plane flight or drive.


When sitting, try to move your legs as much as possible. Even pressing your feet against the floor can stimulate blood flow.


Also, be sure to stay hydrated. That will help keep your blood at the right consistency. If you suspect you might have phlebitis, the first step is to get a proper diagnosis. Call our office today to make an appointment. Our Desert Vein Institute doctors can examine your legs and treat any conditions affecting your vein health.

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