What is Thrombophlebitis?

Thrombophlebitis is a condition where a blood clot causes a vein to become inflamed.

It most commonly occurs in the legs, but it can also happen in other parts of your body, too.  It can occur in veins that are deep within the muscle layers or it can occur in veins that are close to the surface of the skin.

When thrombophlebitis occurs deep in the veins it is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and if it occurs near the surface of the skin it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. DVT is more complicated and more serious of the two conditions. Both are serious enough to require medical condition because if left untreated it can lead to a blood clot in the lungs, a pulmonary embolism, or other situations that can be life threatening.

What are the Symptoms of Thrombophlebitis?

There are various symptoms that can be a sign of either kind of thrombophlebitis and some symptoms that are specific to the type.  Some of the common symptoms that can be experienced for both types of thrombophlebitis are tenderness, pain, swelling, warmth, or redness in the affected area.

With superficial thrombophlebitis, the vein that is affected can become red and swollen.  The symptoms of DVT may be less obvious because it occurs on a deeper level but you will likely still have some of the common symptoms.  Toes or fingers on the limb that is affected might also turn blue and the pain will be more severe.  You may even have a fever.

Thrombophlebitis Causes

Thrombophlebitis is a blood clot that can form in a vein, primarily in the legs. It can be caused by several things, from an injury to a vein, a blood clotting disorder that has been inherited, or can be a result of being immobile for prolonged periods of time, such as during an injury, a hospital stay, or prolonged travel.

Other causes of Thrombophlebitis include varicose veins, which are considered superficial forms of Thrombophlebitis.

Contributing factors of Thrombophlebitis are having a pacemaker as well as a catheter in a vein, the use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, having previous cases of Thrombophlebitis, if you are over the age of 60, or have had a stroke.

How is Thrombophlebitis Treated?

Superficial thrombophlebitis may be treated at home at the recommendation of a doctor.  Treatment can include keeping the affected limb elevated, applying heat, wearing support stockings and using anti-inflammatory medications. If the vein is consistently painful or becomes unsightly, your doctor might remove it in a procedure called varicose vein stripping.

If you have DVT, medications like anticoagulants may be prescribed.  This will help thin the blood and dissolve the clots.  Alternatively, medications may be administered via a need directly into the vein. If you can’t take blood thinners, a permanent filter might be inserted into the main vein of the abdomen to prevent the blood clots from getting to your lungs. In more severe cases, the blood clot may be removed or the affected vein may be opened up during angioplasty  or bypass surgery.

Thrombophlebitis Prevention

It is important to understand that just because you might have had any of the conditions listed above, doesn’t mean you will have Thrombophlebitis, but it is a possibility. As a result, anyone who does have these conditions or even some of them should work to counter the condition. For example, if you sit for prolonged periods of time, for whatever the reason, get up and move as much as possible.

You should discuss the causes with your doctor, who might put you on a blood thinning medication if he deems this is advisable. Quitting smoking, losing weight, and other conditions are also factors that can and should be controlled. Your doctor might also recommend wearing compression stockings and in some cases, even surgery.

Some instances of Thrombophlebitis solve themselves, but don’t take a chance. Only your doctor can determine the severity of your case and an appropriate cure. There are several tests that are easy to perform to make sure of the cause of your pain and other symptoms.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 11, 2017