This condition (pronounced thrahm-bow-fleh-bye-tis) is a circulatory problem that occurs when the walls of a vein become inflamed, often due to a clot. The clot may partially or completely block the flow of blood. “Thrombo” means clot and “phlebitis” means an inflated vein. The vein becomes irritated and swollen.

Our Atlanta vein specialists see different types of thrombophlebitis. It can be near the surface of the skin or deeper inside the leg. When it’s near the surface, it’s called superficial thrombophlebitis. The vein can be painful to the touch. In other cases, it is deeper inside the leg. Those cases are potentially the most dangerous.

Can I Prevent Thrombophlebitis?

There are things that people can do to help prevent the condition from developing. Maintaining good circulation is key. To help do this:

  • Avoid sitting for long periods of time, whether at your desk or on a long auto or plane trip. Get up and walk around at least every hour. If you’re unable to walk around, at least stretch your calves and move your legs. This is especially important for people who are confined to a bed with a serious illness, following surgery or while having a baby.
  • Avoid wearing constricting clothing. We’ve all tried to squeeze ourselves into a pair of pants that were a size to small. However, a tight waistband or belt can be detrimental to your circulation.
  • Prevent becoming dehydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Dehydration can lead to poor circulation.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can contribute to blood clots in the legs.
  • Don’t smoke. Obviously, smoking is unhealthy for many reasons. However, it is also a risk factor for thrombophlebitis.

Are There Less-Preventable Causes?

Certain factors are less easy to control, if at all. However, it’s important to be aware of them.

  • Some people have a family history of blood clots.
  • People over 60 are more likely to develop thrombophlebitis.
  • Taking estrogen, whether via birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, can lead to clots.
  • Pregnant women are more likely to develop it.
  • An injury can cause thrombophlebitis.
  • If you have varicose veins, the blood vessels become stretched. This lets blood pool inside them.
  • If medical personnel place intravenous (IV) tubes repeatedly in the same spots, clots can form. They can help prevent this by changing the locations where the tubes placed.

How is Thrombophlebitis Diagnosed

Sometimes the symptoms of thrombophlebitis are more obvious than in other cases. Some people experience discomfort or discoloration and/or swelling of the leg. However, there may be no outward signs. That’s why doctors use a number of diagnostic tools to test for clots.

A blood test may be done to look for something called D-dimer, which forms when blood clots are broken down. If a person tests negative for the substance, it’s unlikely, although not impossible, that they have a clot.

Ultrasounds can help determine if blood is properly circulating. However, there may still be “blind spots” where circulation issues won’t show up on an ultrasound.

Another test, called a venogram, may be able to detect problems in these spots. With a venogram, a dye is injected into a person’s foot. The doctor then watches the dye travel through the leg to see if and where it stops.

How is Thrombophlebitis Treated?

Treatments for thrombophlebitis vary depending on the severity of the condition. If only a superficial blood vessel is involved, someone may just need to take aspirin or ibuprofen and apply heat to the leg several times a day. Sometimes elevating the leg is recommended. In some cases, doctors will recommend wrapping the leg or wearing compression stockings to help reduce swelling.

Obviously, the more serious cases may require IV drugs or injections to keep the clot from getting larger or to “melt” it. Additional drugs may be prescribed to prevent its return and fight infection. Patients require regular monitoring. In some cases, such as when tissue has been damaged, surgery may be needed. Your doctor will determine the best treatment depending on your situation. It’s essential, however, to keep deep vein clots from breaking off and getting into the bloodstream. If a clot, or portion of one, reaches the lungs, it can be fatal.

At VEININNOVATIONS, our vein specialists use state-of-the-art tools to diagnose vein diseases. The sooner they are diagnosed, the easier they generally are to treat. While varicose veins are often considered a cosmetic issue, these and other vein issues may be an indicator of something more serious. You should never take your circulation for granted. Call us or contact us online today to schedule an exam.