Who Can Be Affected by Thrombophlebitis?

Blog Post
By South Valley Vascular
December 6, 2022

Thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory condition of the circulatory system. The prefix “thrombo” means clot. The suffix “phlebitis” means inflammation of the veins. Simply, thrombophlebitis is a condition that happens when a blood clot forms in one of your veins, obstructing blood flow and causing an inflammatory reaction. Thrombophlebitis most often affects a person’s lower extremities, but it can happen in your arms or other veins in your body. 

Thrombophlebitis can affect veins near superficial thrombophlebitis or deep veins (deep vein thrombosis). Superficial thrombophlebitis may resolve on its own throughout a couple of weeks; overtime this is managed well with conservative treatments such as leg elevation, heat therapy, and over-the-counter pain meds like ibuprofen. On rare occasions, the clot can lead to an infection that could cause tissue damage if left untreated. You will likely need antibiotics to treat an infection from a blot clot. 

Deep vein thrombosis is a more serious health concern, as it can lead to more significant medical complications. These may include:

  • Pulmonary embolism (PE)—PE is a blot clot that breaks free and travels to the lungs,  where it can block an artery.  Pulmonary embolisms are a life-threatening complication of DVT.
  • Post-thrombotic syndrome—  Post-thrombotic syndrome is a condition that can develop months to years after developing a DVT. It is chronic leg pain and swelling.  

The most common causes of thrombophlebitis include vein injuries, an inherited clotting disorder, or prolonged periods of inactivity. Certain risk factors can make a person more susceptive to developing thrombophlebitis. They include:

  • Varicose veins— Varicose Veins, a symptom of venous insufficiency, commonly causes superficial thrombophlebitis.
  • Pregnancy
  • Oral contraception pills or hormone replacement therapy, these pills can make your blood more likely to clot.
  • History of TIA or stroke
  • Age— people over 60 are at greater risk. 
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Having cancer
  • Smoking

Discuss prevention strategies with your doctor if you fall into any of these categories.

Superficial Thrombophlebitis: Signs & Symptoms 

As mentioned, superficial thrombophlebitis affects the superficial veins at the surface of the skin. The most common symptoms include:

  • Warmth in or around the affected area
  • Pain and tenderness that intensified when putting pressure on the given area  
  • Swelling
  • Skin changes— redness and irritation around the affected area
  • A swollen vein that has the appearance of a "cord" under your skin

The excellent  news about superficial thrombophlebitis is that it is usually not a significant  health concern. There’s  a myriad of things you can do to ease your current symptoms and aid in prevention. Often, treatment for superficial thrombophlebitis uses a few lifestyle modifications and adjustments to the daily routine. For example, sitting or standing for long periods can lead to venous insufficiency. To encourage proper blood flow and prevent blood clots, take regular breaks from sitting or standing to move around. This movement promotes healthy circulation. If you work in an office, try scheduling daily walks during your break. Taking walks will elevate your feet when sitting, and make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Dehydration prompts the body to store energy by decreasing blood flow. When oxygen-rich blood stops its delivery in intended volumes to our muscles, the result is lethargy and fatigue. 

DVT, Migratory Thrombophlebitis & Treatment Options

Deep vein thrombosis requires treatment by a vascular specialist because of the increased risk it poses for developing PE. Migratory thrombophlebitis, also referred to as Trousseau's Syndrome is another type of clotting disorder that can be serious if left untreated. Trousseau’s Syndrome is when the blood clot comes back in a different part of your body,  it is associated with an increased risk of certain types of cancer. This cancer looks like a clot forming in one leg and migrating to the other leg. 

Blood thinner medications are successful treatments to control high-risk thrombophlebitis cases. It’s important to discuss your options with your healthcare provider to give you the best outcome. Our specialists at South Valley Vascular can help treat thrombophlebitis and alleviate your symptoms. Call us today for a consultation!