Have you noticed an area on your leg that’s dark with a lump? This is a common symptom of phlebitis, the inflammation of veins. It can cause blood clots called thrombophlebitis if left untreated.
Let’s go over what causes phlebitis so you can better understand how to treat it.
What Causes Phlebitis?
Phlebitis has many causes, but the most common are:
- Local trauma or injury to the vein
- Prolonged inactivity like long drives or plane rides
- Insertion of intravenous catheters (IV) in hospitals
- IV induced after surgery, especially orthopedic procedures
- Prolonged immobility, as in hospitalized or bed-ridden patients
- Varicose veins
- Underlying cancers or clotting disorders
- Removal of lymph nodes after mastectomies
Phlebitis can also occur in individuals whose blood tends to clot. This is often caused by circulatory issues.
How to Treat Phlebitis
A short-term condition of phlebitis will usually subside in 1-3 weeks. During this time, there are many methods you can use to treat phlebitis including simple at home treatments. Here are some things you can try:
- Blood thinners to prevent clots from enlarging
- Compression stockings
- Warm or cold compresses
- Elevating the legs for better blood flow
- Over-the-counter drugs such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Indocin
- Anti-inflammatory medications to relieve pain and inflammation (prescribed by a doctor)
There are a number of preventive measures you can take to avoid phlebitis and thrombophlebitis. Staying hydrated, eating a healthy diet, regular exercise, and quitting smoking can all help.
Can Phlebitis Turn into Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)?
If left untreated, phlebitis can increase the risk of blood clots in deeper veins. The development of a serious blood clot is known as deep vein thrombosis.
One of the primary risks of DVT is a clot breaking free of the blood vessel wall. The clot can then travel through the body into the lungs. It can lodge in a pulmonary artery and block blood flow back to the heart. This situation can be life-threatening.
When phlebitis causes deep vein thrombosis, hospitalization is often recommended. Combine this with anti-blood clot or blood thinner medications and close monitoring.