Phlebitis is a condition in which one or more of your veins becomes inflamed. It may seem like just an inconvenience, but if left untreated phlebitis can cause serious and even life-threatening complications.
At Hamptons Vein & Vascular in Rutherford and Westfield, New Jersey, experienced vascular surgeon Rashmi Sharma, MD, RPVI, diagnoses and treats many vein and vascular conditions, including phlebitis. When it comes to phlebitis, early diagnosis and effective treatment is key for your long-term health.
Take a moment to learn about phlebitis and the most effective treatment options available.
What is phlebitis?
Phlebitis is inflammation in the veins and usually refers to inflammation in the legs. Phlebitis goes deeper than simple inflammation, however, since your veins don’t become inflamed without cause.
Blood clots that cause phlebitis lead to thrombophlebitis. And if the blood clot is in a vein located deep under the surface, it results in deep vein thrombosis (DVT).
Large blood clots usually form in these larger veins, and they have a higher risk of breaking off and moving into your lungs. This serious and potentially life-threatening condition is called pulmonary embolism.
Superficial phlebitis refers to an inflamed vein close to the surface of your skin. For example, if you had an IV, you may develop superficial phlebitis because of the irritation the catheter caused your vein.
Why do I have phlebitis?
Trauma or irritation usually causes superficial phlebitis, but a blood clot that causes DVT may result due to many factors. The risk factors for developing DVT include:
- Being mostly sedentary
- Advanced age
- History of DVT or pulmonary embolism
- Family history of DVT
- Having a vein disease, like varicose veins
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a genetic blood-clotting disorder
You may also develop DVT after major surgery, after taking certain medications (such as hormone replacement medicines and hormonal birth control), and if you have certain types of cancer.
Before beginning treatment, it’s important to receive an accurate diagnosis. Superficial phlebitis can be diagnosed with a physical exam.
Thrombophlebitis (DVT) requires lab and imaging tests. We specialize in an ultrasound called a venous duplex ultrasound, which produces real-time images of blood movement through your veins.
Venous duplex ultrasounds give us better information so we can determine the location and size of any blood clots and affected veins to ensure an accurate diagnosis.
What are the most effective treatments for phlebitis?
Superficial phlebitis usually isn’t serious and typically resolves on its own. It may require treatment as it can sometimes develop into DVT. These treatments are usually noninvasive and work to manage your symptoms, such as wearing compression stockings, elevating your feet, and staying active.
While some of the same treatments can help manage the symptoms of thrombophlebitis and DVT, they do not address the blot clot. As such, the most effective treatment options for thrombophlebitis and DVT include medications and surgery.
Thrombophlebitis and DVT medications work to stop the blood clot from growing and to prevent further complications, such as pulmonary embolism.
Depending on your symptoms and the result of your ultrasound, we may prescribe blood thinners (which make it hard for your blood to clot) or thrombolytic drugs (which work to break up blood clots).
You may also need antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.
We only recommend surgery for thrombophlebitis and DVT in severe cases. Surgery involves locating and removing a blood clot before it causes a pulmonary embolism. We use a device called a vena cava filter that captures the blood clots before they reach your lungs.
If you have phlebitis, we offer effective treatments that can help. Call the office nearest you to schedule your appointment today.