Thrombophlebitis (phlebitis) can cause superficial thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis

Thrombophlebitis (phlebitis) can cause superficial thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosisThrombophlebitis (phlebitis) can cause superficial thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis. Thrombophlebitis is when a blood clot occurs in one or more veins within the legs. Although rare, thrombophlebitis can occur in the arms or neck as well.

Veins affected by thrombophlebitis are typically close to the skin’s surface, which causes superficial thrombophlebitis or within the depths of the muscle, which causes deep vein thrombosis.


Causes of thrombophlebitis range from surgery and trauma to prolonged inactivity. Superficial thrombophlebitis commonly occurs in those with varicose veins.

A blood clot can escalate into a serious health problem; the clot can become dislodged and travel to the lungs, which leads to a pulmonary embolism. A blood clot can be treated with blood-thinning medications.

Causes and symptoms of phlebitis

The cause of thrombophlebitis is a blood clot, which can be caused due to an injury to the vein, an inherited blood clot disorder or being inactive for long periods of time, for example, prolonged hospital stays.

Symptoms of thrombophlebitis are:

  • Warmth, tenderness and pain in the area
  • Redness and swelling

Thrombophlebitis and DVT (deep vein thrombosis)

Blood clots are present in both thrombophlebitis and DVT; the main difference is that in thrombophlebitis the blood clot is in the veins and in DVT the clot is deep within the muscles.

Thrombophlebitis presents itself with many symptoms, such as pain and swelling, but DVT is more difficult to diagnose as it can remain symptomless. When DVT symptoms do appear they can be confused with other conditions, such as muscle strain or a muscle or skin infection.

The risk of developing pulmonary embolism – where the clot dislodges and travels to the lungs – is higher with DVT than thrombophlebitis, thus making it much more important to quickly treat DVT.

Treatment and prevention of phlebitis

Compression stockings and wraps can be effective for treating discomfort associated with phlebitis. Other treatment methods of phlebitis include:

  • Painkillers
  • Blood-thinners
  • Antibiotics if infection is present
  • Thrombolytic drugs, which help dissolve an existing clot
  • Keeping the affected area raised to prevent blood from rushing to the area
  • Bypass and removal surgery may be required if blood clot is severe enough

Prevention tips for phlebitis are:

  • Changing IV lines if cause of blood clot is with an IV
  • Stretching and moving around in situations of prolonged inactivity, such as a long flight
  • Practicing leg exercises
  • Stop smoking

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