Superficial Thrombophlebitis 

The superficial veins are the veins near the surface of the skin. Superficial thrombophlebitis is a problem that occurs when one or more of these veins become red, irritated, and swollen. This is most often because of a blood clot.

Causes

The problem may occur after injury to a vein. It may also occur after having an intravenous (IV) line placed. Other factors that can make the problem more likely include:

  • Varicose veins

  • Venous insufficiency

  • Bleeding disorders

  • Prolonged periods of rest and not moving around

  • IV drug abuse

  • Pregnancy

  • Use of birth control pills or estrogen therapy

Symptoms

Symptoms may appear in the affected area. They can include:

  • Pain

  • Tenderness

  • Redness

  • Warmth

  • Swelling

  • Hardening of the vein

In most cases, superficial thrombophlebitis resolves on its own with no problems. Treatment is focused on relieving symptoms.

Sometimes, there is a risk that the deep veins in the body may also be involved. This can lead to more serious problems. In such cases, further testing and treatments may be needed. Your healthcare provider can tell you more about this.

Home care

To help relieve pain and swelling, you may be told to:

  • Apply heat or cold to the affected area. Do this for up to 10 minutes as often as directed.

    • Heat: Use a warm compress, such as a heating pad.

    • Cold: Use a cold compress, such as a cold pack or bag of ice wrapped in a thin towel.

  • Take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS), such as ibuprofen. In some cases, other pain medicines may be prescribed.

  • Keep the affected limb (arm or leg) raised above heart level as directed.

  • Wear elastic compression stockings or bandages as directed.

  • Don't sit or stand for long periods. Get up and walk often.

To help treat a blood clot, a blood thinner (anticoagulant) may be prescribed. If this is needed, be sure to take the medicine exactly as directed.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider as advised. If imaging tests are done, they will be reviewed by a doctor. You’ll be told the results and any new findings that may affect your treatment.

When to seek medical advice

Call your healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Increasing pain, swelling, or tenderness in the affected area

  • Spreading warmth or redness in the affected area

Call 911

Call 911 if any of these occur:

  • Trouble breathing

  • Chest pain or discomfort that worsens with deep breathing or coughing

  • Coughing (may cough up blood)

  • Fast or irregular heartbeat

  • Sweating

  • Anxiety

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

  • Extreme confusion

  • Extreme drowsiness or trouble waking up

  • New pain in the chest, arm, shoulder, neck, or upper back

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