Thrombophlebitis – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment Methods

Thrombophlebitis is swelling (inflammation) of a vein caused by a blood clot. On rare occasions, thrombophlebitis (often shortened to phlebitis ) can affect veins in your arms. At times, when affecting the greater saphenous vein, thrombophlebitis can progress into the deep venous system, which may lead to pulmonary embolism. When it occurs repeatedly in different locations, it is known as “Thrombophlebitis migrans”. Thrombo means clot. Phlebitis means a vein with inflammation, or the swelling and irritation that happens as the result of an injury. Thrombophlebitis also is known as phlebitis, phlebothrombosis, and venous thrombosis. Thrombophlebitis often is caused by prolonged inactivity, such as from sitting during a long period of travel in an airplane or automobile or from lengthy bed rest after surgery. Often, thrombophlebitis occurs in people with varicose veins; however, most people with varicose veins do not develop thrombophlebitis.

Thrombophlebitis itself may not be too serious, but it can lead to other conditions that are life-threatening. Paralysis, certain types of cancer and use of the hormone estrogen also may lead to thrombophlebitis. An inherited tendency for blood clots places you at higher risk of thrombophlebitis. In rare occasions, some cases can lead to infection and tissue damage from the loss of healthy circulation. There are two parts to thrombophlebitis, inflammation of a vein and blood clot formation. If the inflammation is minor, the disease usually is called venous thrombosis or phlebothrombosis. The main symptoms are tenderness and pain in the area of the affected vein. Redness and/or swelling also may be seen. Paralysis, certain types of cancer and use of the hormone estrogen also may lead to thrombophlebitis. An inherited tendency for blood clots places you at higher risk of thrombophlebitis. If an intravenous line is in use, the risk of superficial thrombophlebitis may be reduced by routine rotation of the IV site and immediate removal of the IV line if signs of inflammation develop.

Causes of Thrombophlebitis

The common causes of Thrombophlebitis include the following:

Sitting for a long period of time (such as on a long airplane trip) increases a person’s risk of thrombophlebitis.

Cigarette smoking.

An infection or an injury to a vein.

You may get a thrombophlebitis from wearing a cast which can cause your blood to pool.

Taking birth control pills.

Intravenous drug use.

Caustic materials, such as lighter fluid and street drugs, injected intravenously.

Symptoms of Thrombophlebitis

Some symptoms related to Thrombophlebitis are as follows:

Warmth and tenderness over the vein.

Skin redness (not always present).

Hard vein.

Local warmth.

A feeling of heaviness in the leg or affected area.

Swelling ( edema ) of the extremities (ankle and foot).

Treatment of Thrombophlebitis

Here is list of the methods for treating Thrombophlebitis:

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen to reduce pain and inflammation.

Rest and Firm bandaging.

Apply moist heat to reduce inflammation and pain.

Antibiotics are prescribed if infection is present.

In rare instances, a filter may be inserted into the main vein in your abdomen (vena cava) to prevent clots that break loose in leg veins from lodging in your lungs

Keep pressure off of the area to reduce pain and decrease the risk of further damage.

Surgical removal, stripping, or bypass of the vein is rarely needed but may be recommended in some situations.