Phlebitis Could Be Causing the Hard Lump in Your Varicose Vein

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
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Leg pain and swelling are the classic symptoms of varicose veins, but did you know about this other side effect?

If you have varicose veins, you’re likely familiar with the most common symptoms of the condition — painful, enlarged veins on the legs and feet, as well as swelling, cramping, and a feeling of heaviness in the limbs. But there is another side effect of varicose veins you may not be aware of: phlebitis.

Superficial thrombophlebitis, otherwise known as phlebitis, refers to clots that form in the superficial vein of the leg or arm. A hard lump surrounded by tender, red, and swollen skin signifies phlebitis. 

Varicose veins are one risk factor for phlebitis, but there are others. Prolonged periods of inactivity (such as being confined to a hospital after surgery or sitting during a long plane ride); taking contraceptives; pregnancy; an inherited blood clotting disorder, or an injury to the vein can all increase your chances of phlebitis. Although phlebitis is not considered a serious condition, it should be checked out by a vein specialist to rule out a more serious disorder.

Phlebitis: Diagnosis & Treatment

An ultrasound of your leg can detect a blood clot in a superficial vein, or a clot found in a vein deeper with the limb. A blood clot that forms in a deep vein indicates deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a condition that could lead to a pulmonary embolism (PE) if the clot breaks away and lodges in the lungs. DVT is characterized by swelling over a larger area of the leg, as opposed to a small lump caused by phlebitis. 

DVT requires immediate medical treatment to prevent the clot from traveling to the lungs, where it will cause heavy breathing and chest pains. Anytime you experience PE symptoms you should go to an emergency room for treatment. 

Your doctor may also order a blood test to uncover an elevated presence of D dimer, a substance released by the body to dissolve clots. However, the level of D dimer can rise due to medical conditions other than a clot. As a result, if a D dimer test returns positive, you may still need further tests. 

Phlebitis usually disappears within weeks with some at-home remedies. Applying a warm compress to the area, elevating your leg, and wearing tight-elastic compression stockings lessen discomfort. Because phlebitis is an inflammation of the vein wall, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen sodium can alleviate pain associated with the condition.

If, during the diagnosis process, your doctor determines you have or are at risk for DVT, he or she may prescribe blood-thinning medications to prevent clots or drugs to break up the clot if one is found. 

Phlebitis linked to varicose veins can be treated by one of several minimally invasive surgical procedures. These same-day operations are virtually painless and enable patients to return to their normal daily activities after a very brief recovery period.

We Specialize in Vein Health

The doctors and staff at the Center for Vein Restoration specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of vein disorders, including varicose veins, spider veins, phlebitis, and DVT. We offer a wide array of therapies to eliminate varicose veins, such as sclerotherapy, laser ablation, radiofrequency ablation, and ambulatory phlebectomy. Contact us for an appointment to learn more about how you can improve your vein health.


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