Superficial Thrombophlebitis

What is Superficial Thrombophlebitis?

Superficial thrombophlebitis is a condition in which a superficial vein (very close to the skin and under the subcutaneous tissue) develops inflammation and contains a blood clot. It generally occurs in the leg, but can also appear in the arms and neck.

The condition is caused by the formation of a blood clot in the affected vein. Its symptoms typically include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth in the area of the vein. In some cases, the vein may be visible.

Causes of Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis is usually caused by injury or irritation to the vein. Common causes of injury include injections or IV lines, varicose veins, hardening of the arteries, and radiation or chemotherapy treatment. It can even be caused by clothing or jewelry that rubs or irritates the skin.

Diagnosis of Superficial Thrombophlebitis

The diagnosis of superficial thrombophlebitis is generally made after a physical examination and a discussion of the patient’s symptoms and medical history. The healthcare provider may also order imaging tests to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms. Tests may include a venogram (a type of X-ray), an ultrasound (to view the veins), or an MRI (to look for other causes of inflammation).

Treating Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Treatment for superficial thrombophlebitis usually includes:

  • Topical analgesics or ice to reduce pain and swelling.
  • Elevation of the affected limb.
  • Oral or topical antibiotics to reduce the risk of bacterial infection.
  • Compression stockings to reduce swelling.
  • Anticoagulant medications, such as heparin or warfarin, to reduce clotting.
  • Surgery, if necessary, to remove the clot.

It is important to seek medical treatment as soon as possible to prevent the condition from progressing to a deeper vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism.