Superficial thrombophlebitis refers to inflammation of a vein just below the skin. It generally occurs in varicose veins of the leg, but it can occur in any vein as a result of injury. It is a common condition which usually resolves within 2-6 weeks. A deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a much more serious condition, can develop if the blood clot extends further up the vein to through veins called perforators to where the deep veins join to the superficial veins.
Superficial thrombophlebitis occurs spontaneously in the lower extremities of the body. It can be caused due to injury to the vein, prolonged immobility or during intravenous medication administration. It is more commonly seen in the obese, women taking hormone treatments, pregnant women and also in older people.
The commonly seen symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis are change in the colour of the overlying skin (red or purple), pain and tenderness, tissue warmness, and hardening of the vein.
Your doctor will inspect and palpate the affected area. Some imaging tests such as Doppler ultrasound, venography and duplex ultrasound may be ordered and blood tests may be done if there is a family history of clotting to rule out inherited disorders. If your doctor suspects any infection, then blood culture tests may also be done.
The treatment of superficial thrombophlebitis mainly aims to reduce inflammation and pain and also prevent complications (deep vein thrombosis). You may be advised the following treatment options depending on the severity of your condition.
Some precautions can be taken to avoid any complications (deep vein thrombosis) that might be caused due to superficial thrombophlebitis.