Phlebitis is an inflammation of a vein, and it can affect superficial or deep veins. Superficial phlebitis is generally not serious, but patients who have it can also have phlebitis in the deep veins, and that is serious. As such, anybody who has phlebitis of the legs, or in any part of the body for that matter, should see our doctor right away.
Types of Phlebitis
Superficial phlebitis affects the veins near the skin and is generally not serious on its own. It can occur along with one of the more serious forms. Superficial phlebitis often develops as a complication of a surgical procedure. The main symptom is a tender, red area that develops near the affected vein. The skin above the vein may also become itchy and swollen. It can burn or throb. If the patient also develops an infection, they can develop a fever, ulcers or pain.
Deep vein phlebitis occurs in the deep veins within a limb, and it is especially common in the legs. With phlebitis of the legs, the patient may have no symptoms at all, or they may develop symptoms similar to those of superficial phlebitis.
Other patients experience swelling and pain throughout the whole limb. If the phlebitis is accompanied by a bacterial infection, the patient can develop a fever. A patient with chronic or untreated phlebitis of the legs eventually develops ulcers and discolored skin.
Thrombophlebitis is a serious condition in which the phlebitis is caused by a blood blot. It usually affects the legs. One reason the condition is so serious is the chance of the blood clot breaking loose and reaching the lungs. That causes a potentially fatal condition called a pulmonary embolism.
Thrombophlebitis can involve either superficial or deep veins. The clot blocks the vein, which becomes hard, swollen and irritated. Thrombophlebitis involving the superficial veins can sometimes clear up on its own within a week or two. Deep vein thrombophlebitis is more resistant and more likely to cause a pulmonary embolism.
Causes of Phlebitis
Phlebitis is often caused by an injury to a vein. It can also be caused by prolonged inactivity, for that encourages the blood in the legs to pool, which increases the chances of a clot forming. Some medications, like potassium solutions and certain cancer drugs, can irritate the veins and thus cause phlebitis. Some cancers and connective tissue disorders can also cause phlebitis.
When Should Someone Go to the Doctor?
Any symptoms of phlebitis should be reported to our medical professional. If the patient has superficial phlebitis that does not improve after one or two weeks of treatment or actually gets worse, they should have the doctor reevaluate it to make sure they do not have a more serious condition.
Deep vein thrombophlebitis is a medical emergency and should be treated accordingly. The patient needs to go to the hospital emergency room if they develop any of the following symptoms:
• Severe swelling and pain in an arm or leg
• Lumps in a leg
• Sudden and unexplained shortness of breath (this is an especially serious symptom, for it can mean a blood clot has already reached a lung)
• Any phlebitis symptoms accompanied with a high fever
Diagnosing Phlebitis of the Legs
Located in Miami, Miami Vein Center is committed to providing exceptional care when it comes to diagnosing and treating venous disease, including phlebitis of the legs. If any of the above symptoms sound familiar to you, contact our office today to schedule your appointment to learn more about our treatment options with our board certified doctor.