Symptoms and Treatments for Phlebitis
Many different ailments can affect the body. The venous system is one part of the body that can become irritated. Veins are delicate and can easily become inflamed for a variety of reasons. Phlebitis is an inflammation of a vein in the body, commonly those in the legs, and can cause pain and irritation. Phlebitis can turn into thrombophlebitis quickly. Thrombophlebitis is inflammation of the veins from one or more blood clots. Phlebitis can develop in superficial and deep veins but is most dangerous in deep veins. It is a condition that is treatable and typically subsides with proper treatment within a few weeks after diagnosis. Check out this guide to the most common symptoms and treatments for phlebitis to learn more about the condition.
Symptoms of phlebitis
There are a few symptoms that could be indicators of phlebitis. Pain, swelling, tenderness, redness, and discomfort are all the most common symptoms patients suffering from phlebitis experience. The symptoms surface in the affected veins, typically in the lower legs. Both superficial and deep phlebitis cause these symptoms. In extremely mild cases, the condition is asymptomatic. Vein bulging is a symptom common in mild to moderate cases. More severe cases are known to cause a low-grade fever. A high-grade fever is an indicator of a more serious infection. If you or someone you know is suffering from phlebitis and develops a high-grade fever, contact a physician immediately. The affected leg with phlebitis can feel tight and may cause difficulty walking even in mild to moderate cases.
Causes of phlebitis
Phlebitis can be caused by many factors. One of the most common causes of phlebitis are injury or trauma to the affected vein. This means the vein was injured or experienced trauma either from an injury or recent surgery involving the veins or circulatory system as a whole. Another common cause is prolonged inactivity of the legs. This can include long drives, long airplane rides, and even an overly sedentary lifestyle. Veins often have trouble properly functioning when you are seated or immobile for too long. Phlebitis can also be caused by the insertion of intravenous catheters, IVs, and intravenous drug use. These cause trauma to the veins, which can easily lead to phlebitis. Another common cause is an issue with the venous system because of damage to or removal of lymph nodes, typically caused by cancer treatments. While there are many factors that can cause phlebitis, if you recently underwent any of the above treatments or experienced any of the previous scenarios that can cause phlebitis, carefully monitor symptoms and alert your medical care team to any underlying health issues you may have to help them to better diagnose and treat you.
In addition to typical causes, there are a few risk factors that can increase risk of developing phlebitis.
• Sedentary lifestyle
• Recent surgery
• Hormone therapy
• Birth control pills
• Certain cancers
All of these factors increase a person’s risk for developing phlebitis. If you fit any of these risk factors, inform your doctor, as you may be at increased risk for developing phlebitis.
Phlebitis vs. Thrombophlebitis
While thrombophlebitis is a form of phlebitis, they do have some differences. Phlebitis simply refers to an inflammation in any vein. Thrombophlebitis is inflammation of the vein caused by one or more blood clots. Both conditions are most often found in the leg veins but are also known to occur in arms. Phlebitis can occur in superficial and deep veins, whereas thrombophlebitis typically only happens in deep veins.
It is typically simple to diagnose phlebitis in patients. A doctor will typically first perform an examination and then ask questions about the symptoms you may be experiencing. After these preliminary measures are completed, if the doctor suspects phlebitis, a D-dimer test will be conducted. This is a blood test that measures for the substance related by dissolving blood clots. If the blood test comes back negative and you do not fit any of the above listed risk factors, you will most likely need to search for a different cause for your symptoms. The next step is typically an ultrasound to detect any block in blood flow. In rare cases, a venogram will be performed to find blood clots in small, distal veins. It is typically avoided because it is an invasive procedure requiring contrast dye injection into a vein on the foot and the administration of an X-ray.
Phlebitis is very treatable, and most diagnoses are given a positive prognosis. Some cases are mild enough where they can be treated at home, while others require medical treatment.
If instructed by a doctor some cases of phlebitis can be treated properly at home. Many doctors will recommend that a patient with mild phlebitis take an anti-inflammatory drug such as ibuprofen. This can help to lessen the pain and discomfort while reducing the inflammation caused by superficial phlebitis. They may also recommend taking regular walks and moving around to break up overly sedentary periods during the day. Compression socks are also commonly prescribed to help relieve pain and increase blood flow.
More serious cases of phlebitis need to be treated by medical professionals and may even require a hospital stay to ensure no complications occur. You may need to elevate the affected area to prevent further swelling and encourage the blood to flow more normally. You may also be prescribed an antibiotic in a few severe cases. Those with high risk factors may be required to take a blood thinner for up to six months. This helps to prevent further blood clots and help the blood flow normally.
Most cases of phlebitis are cured within a few weeks of diagnosis, provided the patient receives prompt and proper treatment. There are many ways to treat the condition, and all your doctor’s directions should be followed. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your physician or medical care team right away.
Compression socks can be helpful for a variety of conditions. There are compression socks for RLS, for phlebitis, for deep vein thrombosis, and many more conditions. Check with your doctor to see if these products can help you with your conditions.
- Elyse Aufmann