The Primary Symptoms and Treatment Options for Phlebitis

Written By Center for Vein Restoration
The primary causes of phlebitis

Those throbbing, tender cords under your skin might not be just tired muscles. They could be inflamed veins, a condition called phlebitis. While it might not sound serious, phlebitis can range from annoying to concerning, depending on where it occurs and whether blood clots are involved.

The Primary Symptoms and Treatment Options for Phlebitis

Phlebitis is the medical term for when a vein becomes inflamed near the skin's surface. Phlebitis is commonly caused by trauma to a vein, such as a torn or punctured blood vessel from the placement of an IV, surgery, or having your blood drawn. Long periods of inactivity can also contribute to inflammation, as reduced muscle contractions can cause blood to pool in the veins.

Superficial phlebitis affects veins close to the skin's surface, while deep vein phlebitis involves bigger, more prominent veins deeper in the body, typically in the legs.

Deep vein phlebitis poses a higher risk as it can lead to the formation of blood clots, resulting in a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE), which is a medical emergency.

Superficial phlebitis often results from a minor injury that affects the veins close to the skin's surface. While it usually doesn't lead to blood clot formation, if superficial phlebitis is left untreated, the swelling can escalate, potentially causing complications like deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.

Deep vein phlebitis, often situated deeper within the legs, can be triggered by factors such as infection, trauma, a sedentary lifestyle, or clot formation (thrombophlebitis). While phlebitis is a common and treatable condition, neglecting its treatment may have severe consequences and pose risks to overall health.

What Causes Phlebitis?

Several factors can contribute to the development of phlebitis. The most prevalent causes include but aren't limited to:

Injury or Trauma: Physical trauma to a vein, such as during surgery, can trigger inflammation that causes the development of phlebitis.

Infections: Bacterial infections can invade the walls of veins, leading to inflammation.

Blood Clots: Clots can obstruct blood flow, causing inflammation in the affected vein.

Conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) increase the risk of phlebitis.

Chemical Irritation: Certain medications and intravenous solutions may irritate the vein, causing inflammation, which is common in patients receiving chemotherapy or other intravenous treatments.

Other factors that contribute to developing phlebitis and other vein diseases include:

  • Obesity

  • Sedentary lifestyle

  • Smoking

  • Medications such as hormonal birth control

  • Pregnancy

Am I at Risk for Phlebitis Because I Have Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins and phlebitis are related conditions, but one does not necessarily cause the other. The link between varicose veins and phlebitis is that varicose veins create an environment where blood flow is compromised, and the risk of clot formation increases. Blood clots can trigger inflammation and lead to phlebitis.

If a blood clot forms in a varicose vein, it can cause local irritation and inflammation, contributing to the development of phlebitis.

It's important to note that not all varicose veins lead to phlebitis, and phlebitis can occur in any vein, not just varicose veins. However, if you have varicose veins, you should be aware of the potential increased risk of phlebitis and talk to your vein specialist about any new symptoms, such as pain, redness, warmth, or swelling in the affected leg.

Phlebitis Symptoms

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of phlebitis is crucial for timely diagnosis and intervention. While the specific symptoms can vary based on the type and severity of phlebitis, common symptoms include but aren't limited to:

Pain and Tenderness: The area around the affected vein often becomes painful and tender, especially when touched or pressed. The pain may range from a dull ache to a more intense, throbbing sensation.

Redness and Warmth: Inflammation increases blood flow to the affected area, resulting in redness and warmth. The skin over the inflamed vein may appear reddish or discolored.

Swelling: Swelling, also known as edema, is a common symptom of phlebitis. The affected limb may become noticeably swollen, and clothes or jewelry may feel tighter than usual. Swelling is often attributed to a feeling of "heaviness" in the limbs.

Visible Red Lines: Superficial phlebitis may cause the appearance of red, linear streaks along the affected vein. Red lines are often accompanied by tenderness and warmth.

Palpable Cord-like Vein: In cases of deep vein thrombophlebitis, a firm, cord-like structure may be palpable beneath the skin. This symptom is indicative of a blood clot within the deep veins.

Fever: Systemic symptoms, such as fever and a general feeling of malaise, may accompany phlebitis, especially if an infection is present.

If you're experiencing sudden swelling, redness, sharp pain under the knee or calf, shortness of breath, or chest pains with any of the above symptoms, seek immediate medical treatment, as you may be experiencing a life-threatening medical condition like deep vein thrombosis or DVT.

Center for Vein Restoration is proud to provide DVT Rule-Out Services that bring you peace of mind while letting you skip a lengthy and costly emergency room visit – our comprehensive approach covers scans, anticoagulation treatment, education, and follow-up if needed. Contact our DVT hotline at 877-SCAN-DVT (877-722-6388) if you're experiencing any of the above symptoms.

Phlebitis Treatment Options

Your vein specialist will need to perform a comprehensive exam that includes a thorough medical history, physical examination, and, in some cases, imaging studies to diagnose phlebitis. The first step in the diagnosis is to gather information about your potential risk factors, recent medical procedures, and any symptoms you may be experiencing.

During the physical examination, your vein specialist will look for signs of inflammation, such as redness, warmth, and swelling along the affected vein. Make sure to tell your provider about any tenderness or pain at the site of the inflamed vein.

While phlebitis is often evident during a physical exam, your provider may order duplex ultrasonography, a commonly used imaging technique to visualize blood flow and identify blood clots, assess the severity of the inflammation, or look for other abnormalities in the veins. This non-invasive procedure helps your vein specialist make informed decisions about the appropriate course of treatment.

The primary goals of treating phlebitis are alleviating symptoms, preventing blood clots from forming or growing, and reducing the risk of complications, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism.

Treatment options include but aren't limited to lifestyle changes, medication, and, in some cases, medical procedures:

Compression Therapy: Wearing compression stockings helps improve blood flow and reduces swelling. Compression therapy is particularly beneficial for individuals with superficial phlebitis, varicose veins, and chronic venous insufficiency.

Diet and Exercise: Low-impact exercise can help improve your circulation and help reduce your risk of developing blood clots. Exercising and making healthy food choices can help reduce the recurrence of phlebitis and also aid in maintaining a healthy weight. Staying active and making proactive healthy choices can help prevent the recurrence of phlebitis.

Elevation: Elevating the affected limb can help reduce swelling and provide symptom relief.

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs): Your provider may recommend

medications like ibuprofen or aspirin to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Your vein specialist will guide you on what to take and when it should interfere with your other medications.

Antibiotics: Your provider may prescribe antibiotics if the underlying cause of the phlebitis is associated with an infection.

Anticoagulants: If you have a blood clot, your provider may prescribe anticoagulant medications such as heparin or warfarin to prevent further clot formation.

Thrombectomy: In certain situations, a healthcare provider may perform a thrombectomy to remove a blood clot. This is more common in cases of deep vein thrombosis.

Catheter-Directed Thrombolysis: This procedure, typically for severe cases, involves the administration of medication directly into the clot, aiming to dissolve it.

Recovering From Phlebitis

After the initial treatment, regular follow-up appointments are essential to monitor your progress and adjust the treatment plan if necessary. Keep all your follow-up appointments with your vein specialist and ask questions. Lifestyle modifications like eating healthy, staying active, and avoiding prolonged periods of immobility are crucial to prevent phlebitis from recurring. Stay proactive and ask your vein specialist for best practices and long-term recommendations for maintaining a healthy lifestyle and healthy habits.

Phlebitis, while common and treatable, shouldn't be ignored. Its potential for severe complications like deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism underlines the importance of early diagnosis and proactive management.

By being informed, proactive, and involved in your healthcare, you can take control of your vein health and prevent phlebitis from impacting your life. Remember, early action makes all the difference. So, listen to your body, seek help when needed, and prioritize your vein health for a healthier, happier you.

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Connect with us today by dialing 240-965-3915 to speak with a dedicated Patient Services Representative, or conveniently schedule your consultation online at a CVR near you. Your journey to healthier veins begins here!

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