Thrombophlebitis is an inflammatory condition of the veins leading to formation of blood clot and blocking of one or more veins. The problem normally occurs in the legs; however, other parts of the body may also be affected. Blood clot is a solidification of blood cells that cluster together in a specific location in the veins. Thrombophlebitis can interfere with the normal functioning of the blood flow through the affected veins. In such situations, treatment procedures are to be started at the earliest to nullify more complicacy, or other health issues.

What is Thrombophlebitis & How Can it Be Treated and Prevented?

Types of Thrombophlebitis

There are two types of thrombophlebitis known to the physicians:

  • Superficial Thrombophlebitis: When the problem occurs near the surface of the skin, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. This type of thrombophlebitis is normally visible with naked eyes.
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis: If the problem occurs deep within a muscle, it is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. This illness is more severe and often causes serious health risk if not treated immediately.

Symptoms of Thrombophlebitis

In both types of thrombophlebitis pain and warmth will be felt in the area. In case of superficial thrombophlebitis, redness and swelling in the affected area will be visible from outside.

Deep vein thrombosis is generally not visible from outside, as it is formed deep into the skin, but the pain will be more intensive and sometimes unbearable. The affected area will be a bit swelled.

Some other symptoms of thrombophlebitis include discoloration of the affected leg, increase of pain while walking or carrying weight and a burning sensation. In advanced stages, the patient may have a fever with chill.

Causes of Thrombophlebitis

Thrombophlebitis is a condition when there is blood clot formed inside a vein which might occur due to one of the following reasons:

  • Inactivity: Patients who need to take a rest for a long-time day-after-day due to any physical issues, such as fracture in a leg, surgery, stroke, etc. may develop blood clots. Even, people who need to sit for a long time, or who are habituated to remain physically inactive due to any reason, may also develop thrombophlebitis.
  • Injury to Blood Vessel Causing Thrombophlebitis: Any kind of injury to the blood vessel due to trauma, wrongful application of injection, needles or catheter during a treatment procedure, etc. may lead to blood clot or thrombophlebitis.
  • Other Common Causes of Thrombophlebitis: Some diseases increase the risk of blood clot, such as HIV, Cancer, fractures, obesity, etc. Besides, hormone injections, smoking, and alcoholism also increase the risk of blood clot causing thrombophlebitis.

Treatment for Thrombophlebitis

The two types of thrombophlebitis need different treatment procedures:

  • Treatment for Superficial Thrombophlebitis: This type of thrombophlebitis can be treated at home. A doctor mayadvice thebelow mentioned steps or treatment methods:
    • Wearing compression stockings will help in stopping the swell to grow further
    • Applying mild heat on the affected area
    • Using anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Keeping the affected limb in an elevated condition as much as possible

In case of repetitive superficial thrombophlebitis, a patient may need to remove the affected vein with a small surgery. This process is called a varicose vein stripping.

  • Treatment for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT): Following are thetreat ment procedure for deep vein thrombosis:
    • Blood thinning medication is given to prevent further enlargement of blood clot or any new blood clot in some other part.
    • If required, the doctor may prescribe clot dissolving medicines. This process is known as thrombolysis, which is used in case of extensive clot formation.
    • In case the medications for thrombolysis didn't work or could not be given for some reason, the doctor may undertake a surgery for inserting a filter in the main vein called vena cava and removing the clot. This is done to prevent the clot from entering in the lungs.
    • Varicose vein stripping may also be required in case of extensive deep vein thrombosis.
    • In some extreme cases, when medications are unable to provide any permanent relief, the doctor may advise for bypass surgery, or angioplasty.
    • Doctor may also ask to wear compression stocking for keeping pressure on the affected area.

Prevention of Thrombophlebitis

Some preventive measures can be taken at home to reduce the risk of thrombophlebitis:

  • Regular walking, and exercising
  • Drinking sufficient water, and nonalcoholic drinks
  • Stop smoking.

Risk Factors in Thrombophlebitis

Some risk factors of thrombophlebitis are as follows:

  • Inactivity for any reason for a long time
  • Varicose veins
  • Pacemaker
  • Obesity
  • Smoking or alcoholism
  • Catheter in any central vein due to any physical condition
  • During or right after pregnancy
  • Family history of thrombophlebitis
  • Age above 60
  • Cancer or AIDS.

Complications of Thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis normally does not cause any further complication, but untreated deep vein thrombosis may lead to the following complications:

  • Pulmonary Embolism: In this condition, the clot travels to the lungs and block the artery causing life threatening situation.
  • Post-Thrombotic Syndrome: In this illness, the patient feels severe pain, and swelling in the same region where deep vein thrombosis happened.

Diagnosis of Thrombophlebitis

Initially, a physician will inspect the area of discomfort for finding the presence of thrombophlebitis. He will also discuss with the patient regarding the symptoms, like the severity of the pain, and other problems. The physician will then determine the type of thrombophlebitis, i.e. superficial thrombophlebitis or deep vein thrombosis through the following diagnostic processes:

  • Blood D-Dimer Test: This blood test is conducted to ensure whether the patient has been affected by deep vein thrombosis or not. A negative D-dimer test ensures that the patient has no such clot in the affected portion; on the other hand, a positive result signifies the patient may have deep vein thrombosis.
  • Ultrasound, MRI and CT Scan: In this diagnostic process a transducer that sends ultrasound is moved over the affected area of the leg. With the help of a computer, the expert then finds the exact location and size of the clot. This test can check the spot and the type of clot exactly. If this diagnosis is not enough, then the doctor may ask for MRI or CT scan.

Conclusion

Thrombophlebitis is a painful disease that needs immediate medical attention. Superficial thrombophlebitis is not so problematic like deep vein thrombosis. In some severe cases, superficial thrombophlebitis may need varicose vein stripping. In deep vein thrombosis, anti-clotting and thrombolysis medications are necessary. However, all patients may not be able to take these medications due to other physical conditions; in these cases, the physician will decide the best treatment plan. Again, there are many patients who may not show any remarkable improvement even after using these medications. For those patients, surgeries like varicose vein stripping, bypass, or angioplasty may be needed. People must take some easy-to-adopt preventive steps like walking, exercising, drinking water, quite smoking, etc. to reduce the risk of thrombophlebitis.

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: February 17, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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