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Phlebitis Infection - Know the Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Ever noticed a part of your leg swollen or red. You might think your legs are tired, but it's not tiredness. You are suffering from phlebitis infection and it is necessary that it gets treated soon to avoid any future threat.
Kulbhushaan Raghuvanshi
Last Updated: Feb 28, 2018
My mother has a painful lump in her leg which is as big as a golf ball and it was diagnosed as swollen leg. She's been wearing a support stocking and keeps her leg elevated when possible. She was on anti-inflammatory tablets that softened the lump, but that gave her severe indigestion, so the doctor prescribed to stop that medication. My mother has since then been using a strong anti-inflammatory cream that has had no effect. She is becoming depressed about the condition because the doctor doesn't seem to know what to do next. It is affecting her whole life. She's uncomfortable when she goes out, because she has to find a place where she can keep her leg raised. She is normally an active person and plays golf regularly. Do you have any advice?
The above situation sounds terrible doesn't it? Is your mother or someone you love facing the same problem. Then it is time to act fast, because this is not a case of a swollen leg, this is phlebitis infection. This medical condition is popular especially in the US because former president Richard Nixon suffered from it. In simple words, phlebitis disease is an inflammation of a single vein in the legs.
Phlebitis which damages the veins on the superficial layer of the skin is termed as superficial phlebitis. Blood clots in deeper veins are referred to as deep vein thrombosis. Superficial phlebitis is not considered as a serious threat and can be treated from some simple home remedies. But, if not treated soon, it may help accelerate deep vein thrombophlebitis which damage large blood vessels in the legs.
Phlebitis from IV
IV is short for Intravenous Therapy or IV therapy. It means passing of a liquid medication directly into a vein. Therapies which require passing of medications intravenously are called specialty pharmaceuticals. Now, does IV cause a phlebitis infection? It sure does, and in large numbers. When an IV catheter gets inserted into a vein for giving medications, it can trigger phlebitis. Cancer patients or people suffering from serious addictions need injections and IV catheter from time to time. The frequent insertion of a foreign object into your vein is one of the primary causes of this infection.
Causes of Phlebitis
The most common cause is damage to the vein of the leg due to an injury. Phlebitis can also occur from an inactive lifestyle. People who sit or recline for long periods are at an increased risk of contracting this disease. Some of the common causes of phlebitis are smoking, pregnancy, obesity, consumption of certain birth control pills, IV and also cancer.
Phlebitis Symptoms
If you are aware of the symptoms, there is a better chance you can prevent it before it spreads to the interior vein which causes deep vein phlebitis. So let's have a look.
Superficial Phlebitis
  • This is usually a slow process where the skin area gets red along the superficial venison of the skin. You may notice a long thin red line as the inflammation grows up.
  • In time this area will become warm, hard and sometimes tender. Patients may experience itchiness.
  • More pain is experienced when the leg is lowered especially while getting out of bed in the morning.
  • There have also been cases when phlebitis after IV has occurred where the peripheral intravenous line was started.
Deep Vein Thrombophlebitis
  • The symptoms may be same as superficial phlebitis. In some cases though, there were no symptoms.
  • The best way to know is to observe classic signs of redness, warmth, swelling and extreme pain in leg.
  • You may experience pain and swelling throughout an entire limb.
Treatment of phlebitis may depend on the affected area, symptoms and other medical conditions. Superficial phlebitis can be treated by applying warm compressors, consumption of oral anti-inflammatory medications, external compression with fitted stockings and some walking exercises. If IV is the cause then it should be removed immediately. If an infection occurs, antibiotics are given. In worst stages of infected thrombophlebitis surgical procedures are followed. Ultrasound is also used to determine superficial thrombophlebitis especially, if it has infected the saphenous vein.
You can minimize the infection by smoking cessation and with some exercises which are advised by your physician. In any case of phlebitis, always get a second opinion from a vascular surgeon just in case.
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