Superficial thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory condition of the veins due to a blood clot just below the surface of the skin. It usually occurs in the legs, but it can occasionally occur in the arms and neck. Anyone can develop superficial thrombophlebitis, but females are affected more than males.
Several factors contribute to and increase the risk of developing superficial thrombophlebitis. The more common risk factors include:
- Recent IV, catheter, or injection into a vein
- Sitting or lying down for too long, such as on a long flight
- Varicose veins
- Disorders that increase blood clotting
- Oral contraceptives and hormone replacement medications
- Being over 60
- Chemical irritation, such as from cancer treatments
- Superficial thrombophlebitis is also associated with more serious medical conditions, including:
- Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein)
- Cancers of the abdomen, such as pancreatic cancer
- Factor V Leiden (a genetic blood clotting disorder)
- Prothrombin gene mutation (a gene mutation that causes a blood clotting disorder)
- Thromboangiitis obliterans (blockage of the blood vessels in the hands and feet)
Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis include:
- Redness and inflammation of the skin along a vein
- Warmth of the skin and tissue around the vein
- Tenderness and pain that worsens with added pressure
- Pain in the limb
- Darkening of the skin over the vein
- Hardening of the vein
Superficial thrombophlebitis is treated at home in most cases. Your doctor might recommend applying a warm compress to the affected area and elevating it to relieve swelling. Wearing support stockings can also help reduce swelling.
Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and aspirin and moist heat can help reduce the redness and irritation caused by inflammation. This condition usually goes away within two weeks. It can take longer for the hardness in your vein to subside.
In a rare, serious instance, removal of the vein is necessary. This is more common if you have varicose veins.
If you think you might be at risk, we recommend contacting a doctor. If you live in Minnesota, Western Wisconsin or surrounding areas, contact the experienced staff at Minnesota Vein Center www.mnveincenter.com