A Closer Look at Phlebitis

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what is phlebitis - how does it differ from deep vein thrombosis

Do you know what phlebitis is? Unless you work in the medical field, you may not have heard this term (short for thrombophlebitis). This condition is more common than you might realize. Here’s a closer look at what phlebitis is, who is likely to develop it, and how to treat it.

What Is Phlebitis?

Your veins are part of your body’s circulatory system. While arteries carry oxygen-rich blood away from your heart to the rest of your body, your body’s veins return the blood to your heart, using valves to help do so. Phlebitis, by definition, occurs when a vein becomes swollen or inflamed; this often happens as the result of a blood clot.

Phlebitis usually occurs in veins closest to the skin’s surface, or in larger veins deeper in your body. This issue most commonly affects the legs or pelvis.

What is the difference between thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

Superficial thrombophlebitis, or phlebitis as mentioned above, can potentially cause painful swelling along the course of the veins close to the surface of the skin. The pain may vary from moderate discomfort (similar to a soreness or dull aching) to a cramp-like pain that can become severe. The pain gradually subsides over a period of one to two weeks, leaving hard clots that can be felt along the course of the veins; due to the fact that it’s so close to the surface of the skin.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) occurs when blood clots develop within the deep venous system. Some people may experience pain, swelling and tenderness; these occur most commonly in the calf, but may occur anywhere in the leg up to the groin.

The dangers of  leaving DVT untreated, is that the blood clot could become dislodge from its location and travel through the circulatory system into the lungs, which is commonly known as a pulmonary embolism (PE). In comparison, superficial thrombophlebitis is rarely associated with deep venous disease and many vein experts say that they have not found enough evidence to suggest that phlebitis could be a risk factor for PE.

Risk Factors for Phlebitis  

A blood clot is most likely to cause phlebitis when the blood flow is slowed or blocked. Risk factors for phlebitis include the following:

  • Family history of blood clots
  • Recent surgery or major injury
  • Inactivity for extended periods
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Certain autoimmune disorders or have/had cancer
  • Smoking Cigarettes
  • Taking birth control pills or Hormone Replace Therapy (HRT)

Symptoms of Phlebitis

If you have phlebitis, you may experience these symptoms in the affected area:

  • Swelling
  • Pain
  • Reddened skin
  • Warmth or tenderness

Diagnosing and Treating Phlebitis

If you have symptoms of phlebitis, your doctor will examine you. He or she might perform additional tests including a doppler ultrasound or a venography. A doppler ultrasound allows your doctor to check the blood flow in your veins, whereas a venography uses x-ray to display the veins inside the legs.

What can you expect in terms of how to treat phlebitis? After confirming the diagnosis, your doctor may have you wear supportive wraps or special stockings to ease discomfort. He or she might also prescribe:

  • Blood thinners (especially when you have a blood clot in a deep vein or deep vein thrombosis)
  • Medication that is injected into your vein to dissolve the clot
  • Treating underlying venous insufficiency early on before it can become superficial thrombophlebitis

Preventing Phlebitis

Even if you’re at higher risk of developing phlebitis, there are some specific behavior changes you can make to reduce the likelihood of getting a blood clot. One thing you can start doing to prevent blood clots and phlebitis is exercise. If you live a mostly sedentary lifestyle, it’s very important that you stand up at least every 30 minutes. This promotes circulation and will help prevent blood pooling in the veins.

Drinking plenty of water is another easy way to fight off blood clots and benefit your circulation. Make sure you’re drinking at least 8 glasses a day to get the most benefits. Drinking a lot of water can also help you maintain a healthy body weight as it can help you feel full for longer. Smoking should be avoided at all costs as it raises blood pressure and causes the arteries to narrow. This is one of the leading, preventable causes of blood clots and issues with circulation like phlebitis.

Practice Prevention for Phlebitis

Do you have questions about phlebitis or other related issues? At USA Vein Clinics we specialize in treating vein disease symptoms, including varicose veins. Our team of doctors and physicians have decades of combined experience and are dedicated to  providing our patient with the relief they need.

If you’re looking for a vein disease treatment that is less invasive than surgery and doesn’t require a long recovery, reach out to us today. Our representatives are happy to answer any questions you may have regarding insurance, treatment costs, doctor availability, and more. For better vein health, and a better you overall, contact one of our clinics today.

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