Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein located just beneath the skin due to a blood clot that developed inside of the vein.
- Skin redness or inflammation along a vein that’s just below the skin
- Warmth of the surrounding tissue
- Tenderness or pain along a vein that’s just under the skin — pain is worse when pressure is applied
- Limb pain
- Hardening of the vein (induration) — feels like a cord
The goals of treatment are to reduce pain and inflammation and prevent complications. To reduce discomfort and swelling, elevation of the affected extremity and application of warm compresses to the site many be helpful.
Medications to treat superficial thrombophlebitis may include :
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to reduce inflammation (such as ibuprofen)
- Antibiotics may be prescribed if infection or cellulitis is present
If deeper clots (deep vein thrombosis) are also present, you may then require anticoagulation medication.
Once the superficial thrombophlebitis has resolved entirely you may benefit from EVLT (or endovenous laser treatment) in order to help eliminate a recurrent episode.
Superficial thrombophlebitis may occur after injury to the vein or the recent use of an intravenous (IV) line. It may also develop for no apparent reason in persons at risk for the condition. Risks for superficial thrombophlebitis include:
- Chemical irritation of the area
- Disorders that involve increased blood clotting
- Sitting or staying still for a prolonged period
- Use of birth control pills
- Varicose veins
Superficial thrombophlebitis may be associated with:
- Abdominal cancers (such as pancreatic cancer)
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Factor V Leiden
- Prothrombin gene mutation
- Thromboangiitis obliterans
- Other rare disorders associated this condition include Antithrombin III (AT-III), Protein C and Protein S deficiencies.
Your health care provider will diagnose superficial thrombophlebitis based mainly on the appearance and palpation of the affected area.
The following tests can help confirm the condition:
- Venous Doppler Examination
- Venous Ultrasound (Sonogram)
Superficial thrombophlebitis is usually a short-term condition that does not lead to significant complications. Symptoms, including pain and inflammation, generally go away in 1 to 2 weeks, but hardness of the vein may remain for much longer.
Whenever possible, avoid keeping your legs still for long periods of time, especially when you are sitting. Move your legs often or take a stroll during long plane trips, car trips, and other situations in which you are sitting or lying down for a long time. Walking and staying active as soon as possible after surgery or during a long-term medical illness can also reduce your risk of thrombophlebitis.
Complications of superficial thrombophlebitis are rare. Possible problems may include the following:
- Infections (cellulitis)
- Gangrene (tissue death)
- Septic shock
- Deep vein thrombosis
- Pulmonary embolism (often without symptoms)
Call for an appointment with your provider if symptoms indicate superficial thrombophlebitis may be present.
Call your provider if you have been diagnosed with superficial thrombophlebitis and your symptoms do not improve with treatment, or if your symptoms worsen. Call the provider if any new symptoms occur,such as fever or chills, or if additional swelling develops.