Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of superficial veins accompanied by formation or a blood clot. This is not a life-threatening condition although it requires proper treatment. Superficial thrombophlebitis predominantly affects lower extremities even though it can also occur in the upper limbs.
Causes of Superficial Thrombophlebitis
In many cases superficial thrombophlebitis occurs due to a vein injury. It additionally affects patients who have an intravenous line or catheter placed in their vein. The condition is also possible if the area is irritated by some chemicals. Superficial thrombophlebitis is frequent among patients suffering from blood clotting disorders, those with infections and pregnant women. Varicose veins are highly susceptible to inflammation and formation of blood clots. It is also possible to develop this condition if sitting or standing still for a long period of time. Women taking birth control pills are at higher risk for superficial thrombophlebitis.
Furthermore, this medical condition may develop as a consequence of some abdominal cancers or be a part of rare illnesses such as antithrombin III, protein C and protein S deficiencies. And finally, in many cases superficial thrombophlebitis is associated with deep vein thrombosis.
Clinical Characteristics of Superficial Thrombophlebitis
The skin that covers the inflamed vein is red and edematous. It is also warm to touch. The vein is tender and pain tends to intensify if the vein is even gently touched. Pain caused by inflammation may affect the entire limb. It is common for the inflamed vein to be hard. This develops as a consequence of induration (thickening).
Diagnosing Superficial Thrombophlebitis
It is not hard to diagnose this medical issue. A well-experience doctor can set the diagnosis according to symptoms and sings as well as physical exam of the affected area. Additional tests that may be required include Doppler ultrasound, duplex ultrasound and sometimes venography.
Treatment for Superficial Thrombophlebitis
The goal of the treatment for thrombophlebitis is to deal with inflammation and all additional symptoms and signs as well as prevent potential complications.
The affected extremity is supposed to be elevated and patients must rest. Swelling is reduced with the assistance of support stockings. If the inflammation is caused by IV lines or catheters, these must be removed. Patients suffering from unbearable pain are prescribed NSAIDs or other pain killers.
Superficial thrombophlebitis is generally a short-term inflammation (lasts approximately 1-2 weeks) and almost never leads to complications. Still, it may be associated with cellulitis, gangrene, septic shock, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism. Fortunately, these complications are very rare but must be treated promptly.