What is Phlebitis?

Phlebitis is a vein inflammation that causes pain in one’s legs and/or arms. The inflammation can occur in deep veins or superficial veins. Superficial phlebitis is when the upper layer of veins gets inflamed.  It can easily be treated by topical ointments and anti-inflammatory medicines, both of which reduce inflammation. Sometimes when phlebitis occurs in the deep veins, a clot can form in the vein.  This is called deep vein thrombosis (DVT).  DVT is a serious medical condition because the clot can dislodge and travel to the lungs or brain and cause injury to those organs.

Phlebitis that is superficial is caused most commonly by a catheter inserted into the vein or when a person is put on IVs. In this case, the superficial vein gets inflamed and irritated. Varicose veins in the legs can also be complicated by superficial phlebitis. Having varicose veins puts you at a higher risk of developing phlebitis.

Deep vein phlebitis is caused by trauma or injury to the legs or due to prolonged inactivity. Inactivity can occur when a person is restricted to their bed (usually as a result of some disease).  With bedrest, you move your arms and legs much less than when you are up and about.  With normal activity the blood freely circulates from your leg and back into your body. In situations with decreased activity the blood stagnates in your leg.  As it sits, it slowly begins to clot.  Various genetic conditions that cause excess blood clotting can also cause blood clots in the leg, even if your physical activity is normal.

There are a few different factors that can put you at risk for phlebitis. People who are over-weight and individuals who are inactive for prolonged periods are prone to deep vein phlebitis. Women who are pregnant are also at risk of getting blood clots in their veins since the enlarged uterus can compress the veins of the pelvic area. People who are treated for cancer and other blood disorders can also get phlebitis.

Symptoms will start with the affected leg or arm developing tenderness.  The area will become red. Slowly there will be inflammation of the leg or arm and the limb will swell. The skin becomes swollen and itchy and the affected area will give a burning sensation. The pain and discomfort will be most pronounced in the morning. Some people may develop fever and breakdown of the skin in the affected area.

It’s best to see a doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the above symptoms. Call 860.761.6666 to book a consult with us so you can find out what’s causing your phlebitis and how to treat it.

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What is Phlebitis?
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