What is Phlebitis?

Our veins do quite a bit of work during the course of our lives. They have a big responsibility to transport blood back to the heart in order to keep us alive. But sometimes these blood vessels become inflamed which can cause problems with circulation and uncomfortable symptoms. We’re talking about phlebitis.

The Causes of Phlebitis

Phlebitis is a term used to describe inflammation in a vein. The term means vein (phleb) inflammation (itis). It is typically found in a limb, usually the leg, and it can be superficial (in veins just under the skin) or in deep tissue.

Superficial phlebitis is usually found in the veins just under the surface of the skin. It can require treatment but isn’t a life-threatening condition. Phlebitis can be caused by:

  • Trauma or injury to the vein
  • Varicose veins
  • Undiagnosed cancers or clotting disorders
  • IV (intravenous) catheters or IV drug use
  • Surgery
  • Being hospitalized or bed-ridden for a long period of time

Phlebitis can also be caused by a blood clot in the veins, called thrombophlebitis. If the blood clot is in the deep veins of the leg, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This condition can be life-threatening and lead to a pulmonary embolism.

Thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis can be caused by sitting in one position for long periods of time such as during a flight. This allows the blood to pool in the veins, making the blood coagulate and form a clot.

Symptoms of Phlebitis

Phlebitis can occur in the leg or arm and can be asymptomatic meaning you may not have any symptoms of the condition at all. But most people have some symptoms that usually occur near the affected vein. Symptoms can include:

  • Tenderness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • A warm sensation on the skin
  • Pain in the calf or thigh that worsens when walking or flexing the leg (if the cause is a DVT)

You may also feel something that feels like a cord or rope under the skin or see a streak (or streaks) of red on the skin. All of these symptoms will usually occur near the affected vein.

Phlebitis Treatment

Treatment options for phlebitis can vary depending on the severity of the condition and if there is a DVT. But the treatment of superficial phlebitis can include:

  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications (ibuprofen, diclofenac)
  • Elevation of the affected limb
  • Warm compresses
  • Walking
  • Topical anti-inflammatory medications (Voltaren gel)

More extensive phlebitis or deep vein thrombosis may be treated with:

Do you think you may have phlebitis? Then you need the best vein doctor in the Chicago area. We have two convenient locations in Illinois, so contact us today to make an appointment.