Thrombophlebitis - Symptoms & Causes

Written By Center for Vein Restoration

Being proactive and understanding the state of your vein health plays a vital role in preserving your overall well-being. Familiarizing yourself with the indicators and symptoms of thrombophlebitis is crucial, enabling you to identify when to seek medical attention for your symptoms. Here is some critical information to help you understand the causes, symptoms, and warning signs of thrombophlebitis, including when to seek medical attention.

Thrombophlebitis - Symptoms & Causes

According to the Mayo Clinic, thrombophlebitis is an inflammation of the vein, often accompanied by a blood clot that can obstruct blood flow. Thrombophlebitis commonly occurs in the legs but can happen in other body parts.

There are two types of thrombophlebitis: superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis. Superficial thrombophlebitis is caused by a blood clot forming in the veins close to the skin's surface. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is when a blood clot forms in a vein deep within a muscle. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a serious health risk.

Symptoms of DVT include:

  • Throbbing sudden pain in the calf or thigh

  • Sudden swelling in the leg

  • The skin around the painful area becomes discolored or warm to the touch

  • Chest pains

  • Trouble breathing

If you are suddenly experiencing these symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention. Center for Vein Restoration (CVR) provides a DVT rule-out service if you’re concerned your symptoms may be deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Our comprehensive service includes a DVT scan, treatment, education, and follow-up care. Reach out to the DVT hotline at 877-SCAN-DVT (844-568-3691).

If a DVT or blood clot becomes dislodged from the vein wall and travels through the bloodstream to other parts of the body, it can give rise to a critical medical emergency known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). PE has the potential to obstruct blood flow to the lungs or the brain, potentially resulting in a stroke. This is a life-threatening medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention.

Superficial thrombophlebitis, or a blood clot in a vein close to the skin's surface, often results from benign everyday instances such as trauma to the vein caused by catheter injections, which can cause vessel damage and encourage a blood clot to form. It’s important to note that while superficial thrombophlebitis typically resolves on its own, it shares symptoms with deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT), and to be mindful of any worsening symptoms. Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis include:

Pain or tenderness: Individuals with thrombophlebitis often experience an aching or throbbing pain and tenderness along the affected vein that can vary in intensity.

Warmth: The skin over the affected vein may feel warm to the touch. This warmth is due to increased blood flow and inflammation in the area.

Swelling and Redness: The area around the affected vein may become red and swollen. This inflammation results from the body's response to the blood clot and the associated irritation of the vein.

What Causes Thrombophlebitis?

While some causes of thrombophlebitis are benign, it’s important to take any changes to your veins seriously, as it could indicate an increased risk of DVT.

Risk factors for thrombophlebitis include but aren’t limited to:

Obesity: Being obese is associated with an increased risk of thrombophlebitis, as carrying extra weight stresses the vascular system, especially the veins of the lower legs.

Smoking: Chemicals in cigarette smoke decrease oxygen levels in the blood, which causes inflammation and damage to the blood vessels and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular conditions, including thrombophlebitis.

Medications: Hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy increases blood clot formation risk.

Pregnancy: Hormonal changes and weight gain associated with pregnancy can increase pressure on veins in the lower body and affect blood clotting.

Varicose Veins: People with varicose veins have an increased risk of developing superficial thrombophlebitis. Varicose veins are twisted, enlarged veins visible from the skin's surface. Abrupt or minor injury to a varicose vein can cause inflammation in the vein and lead to a reduction of blood flow and the formation of blood clots.

Inactive Lifestyle: Long periods of inactivity or immobility can increase your risk of blood clots. Physical activity promotes healthy blood circulation. When you are inactive, blood flow decreases, especially in the lower extremities, which can cause blood and fluid pooling, creating an environment for clot formation.

Trauma Injury: Traumatic injuries can damage blood vessels and cause the formation of blood clots, especially in those who have had injuries or surgery to the lower extremities.

Family History: A family history of clotting disorders, high blood pressure, obesity, or diabetes can increase your risk of developing thrombophlebitis.

Medical Conditions: People with certain cancers, inflammatory disorders, and autoimmune diseases may have an increased risk for thrombophlebitis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis: People with a previous history of DVT are at risk of developing thrombophlebitis.

Talk to your vein specialist about your medical history and risk for blood clots and thrombophlebitis, especially if you have a history of DVT or meet risk factor criteria.

How Is Thrombophlebitis Diagnosed and Treated?

At Center for Vein Restoration, one of our expert vein specialists can help diagnose superficial or deep vein thrombophlebitis. They’ll discuss your medical history, consider your risk factors, and physically examine the affected limb to assess any visible signs of swelling, skin changes, vein changes, or discoloration. They’ll ultrasound the affected limb using non-invasive imaging to visualize blood flow and detect blood clots.

Your Center for Vein Restoration vein specialist will recommend a treatment based on the severity of your thrombophlebitis, the location of the clot, and any pertinent health factors. The goal of treating thrombophlebitis is to alleviate uncomfortable symptoms like inflammation and swelling and to reduce the risk of the clot moving.

Common treatments for thrombophlebitis include but aren’t limited to:

Compression Therapy: Compression stockings can help improve blood circulation to the legs by reducing swelling and fluid retention.

Activity: Getting regular movement and exercise while avoiding prolonged periods of sitting can help prevent blood clots by improving your circulation. Exercise is good for your overall cardiovascular health and well-being. Talk to your vein specialist to see what exercises they recommend.

Elevation: Keeping the affected limb elevated above the heart can assist in improving your blood flow and reduce swelling.

Medication: For superficial thrombophlebitis, your vein specialist may recommend over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or NSAIDs to reduce swelling and discomfort. If you’re at risk for DVT, you’ll likely be prescribed blood thinners to help dissolve the blood clot.

Warm Compress: A warm compress may relieve the inflammation and discomfort of superficial thrombophlebitis.

Surgical Interventions: Your vein specialist may recommend sclerotherapy. Sclerotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that is conducted in our office. A sclerosing agent is injected into the affected vein, causing irritation that prompts the vein to seal and collapse. Over time, the body naturally absorbs the treated vessel, and blood is redirected through nearby healthy veins.

How Can I Prevent Thrombophlebitis?

You can take proactive self-care measures to improve your vascular health and decrease your risk of vein disease, chronic venous insufficiency, and thrombophlebitis with these steps:

Maintain a Healthy Weight: Excess weight strains your circulatory system, which can increase your risk of developing thrombophlebitis. Adopting a balanced heart-healthy diet and healthy eating habits can help you maintain a healthy weight and decrease your risk of thrombophlebitis.

Make Lifestyle Changes: Quit smoking and reduce your alcohol intake. Smoking damages blood vessels and increases the risk of clot formation. According to the National Library of Medicine, heavy alcohol consumption can increase the chance of high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for developing DVT. Talk to your provider about getting support to quit smoking.

Stay Hydrated and Active: Regular exercise promotes healthy blood circulation, and simple low-impact activities like walking, swimming, biking, and stretching can improve circulation. The more you exercise, the more you should pay attention to your water intake. Being hydrated helps improve your blood flow, reduces swelling caused by water retention, and helps prevent the formation of blood clots. Focus on drinking water, as sugary or caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda don’t assist in the hydration process.

Get Help Managing Chronic Conditions: Conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes can contribute to vascular issues like thrombophlebitis. Work closely with your vein specialist and other medical providers to manage these conditions effectively.

You can significantly impact your cardiovascular health by slowly incorporating these lifestyle changes into your daily routine and reducing the risk of thrombophlebitis. Talk to your provider about any significant diet or lifestyle changes you want so they know how to support you best.

Thrombophlebitis Treatment at Center for Vein Restoration

If you’re concerned about your vascular health and think you may be at risk for developing thrombophlebitis, Center for Vein Restoration’s vein specialists can help.

We accept various insurance providers, including Aetna, Amerigroup, Anthem, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Cigna, MultiPlan, Medicaid, and Medicare.

For personalized guidance on insurance coverage, dial 240-965-3915 to connect with a Patient Services Representative or request an appointment online.

Center for Vein Restoration is here to assist you. Accessing our expert care is convenient, with over 110 vein clinic locations across the United States. Locate a provider near you.

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