Superficial thrombophlebitis is a condition wherein a blood clot gets lodged inside a superficial vein, thereby causing inflammation of the vein. This write-up provides information on the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Superficial Vein Thrombosis (SVT) are both medical conditions that are characterized by the formation of a blood clot in the veins. In case of the former, the blood clot forms in a vein that lies deep within the muscles, whereas the blood clot forms in a superficial vein that lies just under the skin in case of the latter. While SVT is not a life-threatening condition, DVT can make one susceptible to serious health problems. The inflammation of a superficial vein due to a blood clot is medically referred to as superficial thrombophlebitis. Though phlebitis is more common in veins located in the lower extremities, superficial veins in the arms could also get affected by this condition.
Trauma to a superficial vein due to an injury is a common cause of this venous disorder. People who are often administered drugs intravenously are also susceptible to phlebitis.
➞ The insertion of a cannula, which is a flexible tube that is used for administering drugs or draining fluids, may injure a superficial vein.
➞ A vein could become inflamed while making a surgical incision into a vein for performing phlebotomy or treating varicose veins or spider veins with sclerotherapy.
➞ Injecting street drugs into the subcutaneous layer of the skin could also injure the wall of a superficial vein and cause inflammation of the vein.
While traumatic thrombophlebitis is the most common form of phlebitis, certain medical conditions may also make one more susceptible to this condition.
➞ The risk is high in case of an individual diagnosed with a disorder that causes the blood to coagulate faster.
➞ Pregnancy, use of birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy may cause blood to clot at a faster rate and increase the risk of thrombophlebitis in women.
➞ Those who are obese, bedridden, or lead a sedentary lifestyle are also susceptible.
➞ Migratory thrombophlebitis, which is a condition characterized by repeated inflammation of veins, may sometimes co-exist with the cancer of an internal organ. This condition is referred to as Trousseau’s syndrome.
➞ Varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis may coexist with inflammation of superficial veins.
Symptoms and Diagnosis
➞ Inflammation of a superficial vein is most likely to cause pain and soreness around the affected vein.
➞ The skin over the affected vein is likely to harden along its entire length and may turn red.
➞ The skin surrounding the vein may feel warm.
➞ If one has an infection, one is most likely to suffer from a fever.
Though a physical examination can help doctors formulate a diagnosis, they may still conduct a blood coagulation test, venography, and an ultrasound. Unlike deep vein thrombophlebitis, wherein the muscles surrounding the veins may push the blood clot, there is no risk of blood clot breaking loose from the superficial vein and reaching the arteries of the lungs. Thus, the risk of complications is greatly reduced.
➞ The treatment of this medical condition generally involves the application of warm compresses on the affected region.
➞ The pain and inflammation can be suppressed with the help of analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs.
➞ Wearing a compression bandage may also prove beneficial.
➞ Though anticoagulants are usually not prescribed for treating this condition, doctors may recommend them if superficial vein thrombosis coexists with deep vein thrombosis.
➞ If the superficial saphenous vein in the leg is severely affected, procedures such as radio-frequency ablation or vein stripping may be performed.
➞ Other procedures such as phlebectomy or sclerotherapy may be recommended for the treatment of varicose veins.
Superficial thrombophlebitis generally resolves with drug therapy and is not a cause of great concern. However, one must undergo certain tests to rule out the possibility of deep vein thrombosis. DVT can make one susceptible to pulmonary embolism, which is a life-threatening condition. Since maintaining the right body weight and staying physically active can definitely lower the risk of such venous disorders, one must make the right lifestyle choices.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.