Superficial Thrombophlebitis: Causes, Symptoms and Prevention


Superficial thrombophlebitis is a relatively minor circulatory condition involving inflammation of veins just beneath the surface of the skin. Although quick and easy to treat and not serious in itself, superficial thrombophlebitis can be a sign of other conditions such as deep vein phlebitis.


A common cause of the condition is injury to a vein, which can develop independently or result from the use of a catheter or IV line. Contributary factors to the development of superficial thrombophlebitis can include long periods of inactivity, smoking, obesity, infection, pregnancy, hormone pills, injury or other circulatory conditions such as varicose veins.


The symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis tend to be localised, manifesting as swelling, burning, redness or tenderness, often along the path of the affected vein. A patient with the condition may also sometimes experience a light fever. These external physical signs will be the first point of examination for a medical professional as part of the diagnostic process. Further tests of blood pressure, temperature, pulse and circulation may also be required. More in-depth investiagtions of the condition can include venography and ultrasound.


There are a variety of treatment options which can prove very effective in many cases. As with most circulatory conditions, exercise is vital both in terms of treatment and prevention, helping to improve blood flow through the affected areas and the body as a whole. However, any such physical activity should only be undertaken with medical approval. Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen may be prescribed to relieve pain and swelling.

Compression stockings also form an effective part of treatment for the condition and are available in a number of grades and sizes. Knee or thigh high models are the most commonly used and should be worn as often as possible to help improve circulation and sometimes relieve pain and inflammation. Elevation of the legs can be beneficial, making sure they are positioned higher than the hips when seated or laying down.

Most cases of superficial thrombophlebitis respond well to the above treatments and symptoms generally show signs of improvement within one to two weeks. However,in rare instances there can be complications such as gangrene, DVT or septic shock.