All about Superficial Thrombophlebitis
Written by Dallas Vein Specialists on September 8, 2016
Superficial thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory process of the tissues secondary to clotting (thrombosis) of one or more vein. Both the veins and the surrounding tissues such as skin and fat display signs of inflammation. By definition, superficial thrombophlebitis always involves veins between the skin and the muscle. It usually occurs in the legs but may also occur in the arms.
What Causes Superficial Thrombophlebitis?
Superficial thrombophlebitis is caused by a blood clot (thrombosis). Risk factors for the condition include:
- Chemical irritation or trauma to the veins
- Disorders that cause an increased tendency for forming blood clots (inherited clotting disorder)
- Use of birth control pills
- Varicose veins
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Prolonged immobility
- Presence of foreign body within a vein (e.g., IV catheters, pacemaker wires)
What are Common Symptoms?
Symptoms vary and can include any of the following:
- Skin redness, swelling and warmth of the area of the blood clot (signs of inflammation)
- Tenderness and/or pain along the clotted vein
- Limb pain
- A firm cord beneath the skin
How Can Superficial Thrombophlebitis be Prevented?
Pregnant women with varicose veins have an increased risk for forming blood clots (thrombosis). Such women should wear compression hoses and exercise their legs by walking daily. Individuals who travel on long airplane or automobile trips or engage in activities that lead to restricted or cramped conditions for long periods of time are also at risk. These individuals should wear compression hoses and engage in periodic leg exercises and walking breaks during their trip, if possible.
How Is Superficial Thrombophlebitis Diagnosed?
Superficial thrombophlebitis is usually diagnosed via a physical examination. The symptoms and signs of inflammation that are mentioned above can sometimes be confused with an acute infection. An ultrasound study (sonogram) of the legs will confirm the diagnosis. At any rate, an ultrasound study should be performed on every patient with superficial thrombophlebitis to make certain there is no involvement of deep veins. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is a much more serious problem with greater risk and different treatment demands.
How Is the Condition Treated?
Most patients with only superficial thrombophlebitis will recover completely, and complications are rare. The discomfort caused by the acute inflammation usually responds to analgesics and anti-inflammatory agents. Compression stockings also aid relief and diminish swelling. In some special circumstances, anticoagulants (so-called blood thinners) may be indicated to stop progression of the clotting process. Patients with varicose veins can develop clots in the varicosities, which can be particularly painful and disabling. In such cases it may be necessary to drain the clots via an in-office procedure that immediately relieves the pressure and greatly relieves the patient’s suffering. Once the acute situation has resolved, these patients should consider undergoing treatment for the underlying vein problem causing the varicose veins. Such treatments are in-office procedures and are well tolerated with excellent results and quick return to normal activities.
To learn more about superficial thrombophlebitis or schedule an examination with Dr. Whiddon, contact his Dallas vein disorders office. Please call (214) 221-9222 today.