Description, Causes and Risk Factors:

Alternative Names: Superficial venous thrombosis, superficial thrombophlebitis.

Phlebitis is a blood clot that develops in a vein close to the surface of the skin. These types of blood clots do not usually travel to the lungs unless they move from the superficial system (just below the skin) into the deep venous system (deep vein thrombosis). However, phlebitis may cause pain and warrant treatment.

Phlebitis occurs in people with poor blood circulation or in veins damaged from intravenous drug use or an intravenous catheter. It can be a complication due to a medical or surgical procedure. Since Phlebitis is often caused by an injury to a vein, one is more likely to get phlebitis in veins where the blood flows more slowly than normal, such as varicose veins. A clot, called a thrombus, can form and adhere to the vein wall. Since there are no muscles to push the clot, it stays stuck inside the vein and blocks blood flow.

Phlebitis can also be a complication resulting from connective tissue disorders such as lupus erythematosus, or of pancreatic, breast, or ovarian cancers.

Risk Factors May Include:

    Prolonged inactivity, such as long car or plane rides.

  • Trauma or injury to the legs or other sites.

  • Varicose veins.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Certain medical conditions such as cancer.

  • Hereditary conditions.


The symptoms are redness with swelling in the veins, increased pulse, mild fever, and pain.


The diagnosis of phlebitis is made with detailed history and physical examination, paying attention to the timing of the event, the present or absence of varicose veins, or recent hospitalization and/or IV placement. The physical findings are typically of a red, hard streak that feels like a rubber ball. The process can extend up or down the leg. Doppler ultrasound will not only confirm the process, but also make sure that there are no deep vein clots, since a small percentage of deep vein clots present with superficial phlebitis.


The long-term goals of treatment are to reduce symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. Your healthcare provider will recommend the treatment option that is right for you.

The main goal of initial treatment is to control pain and inflammation. You will likely be prescribed pain medication and an antiinflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Rarely is anticoagulation with medications such as Coumadin or heparin warranted. Much of this process is self-limited, with complete resolution of symptoms within a few weeks.

Surgery may be necessary when phlebitis affects circulation and completion of everyday activities. It also may be necessary to prevent the condition from progressing into deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or a pulmonary embolism (PE). Surgical removal or stripping of the vein is rarely needed but may be recommended in some situations to treat superficial venous thrombosis or phlebitis.

Surgical treatments are performed in the hospital or outpatient setting by a vascular surgeon.

Ligation and stripping often are performed in combination. During surgery, the dilated vein is either removed or tied off through small skin incisions. Some surgical techniques include removing the saphenous vein, or closing the vein with a special catheter that applies radiofrequency, laser or thermal energy. In some cases, the vein can be removed during a minimally invasive surgical procedure called endoscopic vein removal.

Nutritional support can help improve the health of the circulatory system to lessen the likelihood of blood clots forming.

Recommended vitamins:

    Vitamin E.

  • Vitamin C.

  • Omega 3.

Recommended nutrients:


  • Ginkgo biloba.

  • Lecithin oil.

  • Aesculus.

  • Pulsatilla.

  • Garlic.

  • Ginger.

  • Cayenne.

Foods to choose:

    Fresh fruits and vegetables.

  • Raw nuts and seeds.

  • Soybean products.

  • Whole grains.

Foods to avoid:

    Red meat.

  • Dairy products.

  • Fried or salty foods.

  • Processed or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

NOTE: The above information is educational purpose. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition.

DISCLAIMER: This information should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.


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