Phlebitis Picture

Phlebitis: Causes, Picture, Symptoms and Treatment

Phlebitis is the condition that results in the inflammation of the vein in your body. Veins are the blood vessels in your body. It is responsible for the transfer of blood from the organs as well as limbs to the heart. The inflammation of the vein occurs due to advancing age or due to an injury. If the vein inflammation is caused by a blood clot, then it can have a serious complication. The inflammation occurring due to a blood clot is referred to as thrombophlebitis. It is a serious condition. When the blood clot appears in the deep vein, the DVT or Deep Vein Thrombosis can occur. The condition can become fatal and result in your death. Therefore, you need to consult your doctor immediately to get proper treatment and care.

Types Of Phlebitis

The condition gets classified into two major types. The classification based on the location of occurrence provides a good idea about the issue. So, the different types of phlebitis:

Superficial Phlebitis

Superficial phlebitis as the name suggests, is not deep. It mostly occurs in the vein on the surface of your skin. It is not a serious condition. But, you need to seek treatment to overcome the problem. It mostly occurs during any surgical procedure you undergo. So, the insertion of an IV (intravenous) catheter can result in irritation or blood clot. You need to discuss it with your doctor before undergoing any invasive surgery.

Deep Phlebitis

It is a more serious condition that needs immediate medical attention. It can trigger inflammation in your larger or deep vein. It mostly occurs in the vein in your legs. In most cases, a blood clot can result in the condition. So, the issue can develop into a life-threatening problem with fatal consequences. DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is one of the common risk factors associated with the problem. Therefore, you need proper medical care at the right time to prevent further complications.

Symptoms Of Phlebitis

Symptoms Of PhlebitisPhlebitis can mostly affect your legs or arms. It is due to the fact that your veins in the regions become more susceptible to the inflammation. So, the most common signs associated with the problem are:

  • Redness in the affected region
  •  The skin in the affected area feels warm
  • Swelling
  • Visible red streaks in the affected area (leg or arm)
  • Tenderness in the affected region
  • Cord-like or rope-like structure (you can feel it through your skin)
  • Pain in the thigh or calf (Due to DVT)

In most cases, phlebitis that develops into DVT shows no signs or symptoms. It makes the condition more serious. You may only know about the condition only after serious issues like PE (Pulmonary Embolism) occurs. But, some people can notice pain when they walk or flex their foot.

Complications Due To Phlebitis

Depending on the type of phlebitis, the complications may vary. So, read ahead to know in detail about what happens when you ignore the signs.

Superficial Phlebitis

The condition is not severe. So, it may not cause any serious complications when you chose not to go to a doctor. But, certain cases can trigger infection on the skin where the clot forms. It can also develop into infections in the bloodstream. Extensive superficial phlebitis can develop into deep vein thrombosis. It causes due to the deep vein and superficial vein coming together. So, it can trigger a life-threatening complication. It is better to seek your doctor’s advice on the severity of the issue.

Deep Phlebitis

Deep Phlebitis

Deep phlebitis can escalate into deep vein thrombosis (DVT) without showing any symptoms. So, unless you experience a life-threatening complication, you remain unaware of the problem. DVT can lead to PE (Pulmonary Embolism). PE results in the breaking of the piece of the blood clot, which travels to your lungs. It blocks your blood flow and causes life-threatening complications. So, you may fee signs like:

  • Shortness of breath without explanation
  • Coughing up of blood
  • Chest Pain
  • Fast heart rate
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Rapid breathing

You need to consult your doctor immediately when you suspect PE. It is a medical emergency, which needs treatment as soon as possible.

Causes Of Phlebitis

Both the types of inflammation of the blood clots happen due to an injury. The irritation occurring to the blood vessel lining can also result in the problem. The different cause leading to the issue are:

Superficial Phlebitis

The irritation occurs on the vein of your skin surface due to the following reasons:

  • Placing the IV catheter on your skin during a surgical procedure
  • Administration of drugs into your veins causing irritation
  • An infection
  • A small clot

Deep Phlebitis

In the case of deep phlebitis, the inflammation of clot in the veins occurs due to the following reasons:

Trauma

The deep vein can suffer injury or irritation due to trauma. Certain events can trigger the issue like a serious injury, surgery, broken nose, or a previous case of deep vein thrombosis.

Slow Blood Flow

The slow blood circulation can result in the clot formation in the deep vein. The lack of motion can occur during bed rest. When you recover from surgery, you take rest for long duration leading to the problem. People who travel constantly for a long period of time can also face the issue.

Tendency To Clot

Certain medications or health issues can make your blood clot more than usual. In such cases, you face the risk of vein inflammation. Therefore, medications, inherited clotting conditions, cancer or connective tissue disorders can trigger the problem.

Risk Of Getting Affected By Phlebitis

Some people face more risk of getting phlebitis compared to others. Knowing the risk factors that result in vein inflammation can help you act proactively. So, it will aid in taking steps to protect yourself. Your doctor can help in your quest by developing an appropriate plan that addresses the risk factors you face. So, people who have experienced the following are more at risk, which includes:

  • A prior history of DVT
  • Suffer from blood clotting disorders (Example factor V Leiden)
  • Take birth control pills
  • Undergo hormone therapy
  • A prolonged period of bed rest or inactivity (following a surgery)
  • Traveling for long periods of time (sitting or standing for a long time)
  • Suffer from cancer
  • Smoking
  • Certain cancer treatments
  • Pregnancy
  • Obesity (excess body weight)
  • Old age (people over sixty years)
  • Consuming excess alcohol

Diagnosing Phlebitis

When you see the symptoms associated with the problem, you need to seek a doctor’s appointment. Your doctor based on the signs you suffer can suggest a treatment plan. So, your doctor can adopt an ideal treatment plan. The different techniques used to diagnose the issue are:

Physical Examination

Your doctor can collect your medical history that suggests your risk associated with the vein inflammation due to the blood clot. The doctor performs a physical examination to check the area.

Blood Test

Your doctor can suggest a D-dimer blood test that measures the specific substance released when your blood clot dissolves. So, the negative result along with no risk factors can lead your doctor to conclude that you have no blood clot.

Ultrasound

The ultrasound of the affected limb can show your doctor the image of the clot. The sound waves can follow the blood flow through the arteries and veins. So, it can provide an image that provides conclusive evidence of the clot.

Venography

It is a type of x-ray taken after injecting you with a contrast dye. The doctor can assess the x-ray images to identify the presence of a clot in the veins.

Other Methods

If the above-mentioned methods do not offer the doctor a clear answer, then the sophisticated imaging technique can offer result. MRI and CT scans can check for the blood clot in your body.

After diagnosing the issue, the doctor sends your blood to the lab. It is to detect the actual problem triggering the issue. Some blood clotting disorders can result in the issue. So, depending on the results, your doctor adopts an ideal treatment plan.

Treatment Options For Phlebitis

Your doctor can adopt a treatment option depending on the type of phlebitis. The treatment may vary depending on the severity and cause of the issue. So, the different options available for you to overcome the problem are:

Superficial Phlebitis

It mostly occurs during the injury or inflammation of the vein when you undergo some surgical procedure. The insertion of IV can trigger the problem. Since the problem ranks low in severity, you need the following treatments that you can try at home:

Warm Compress

Warm Compress

The problem can affect your upper and lower extremities. Therefore, you can apply a warm compress to dissolve the blood clot and ensure blood circulation.

Walking

You can develop blood clot due to prolong rest after surgery. So, walking can encourage ambulation. It improves the blood circulation in your legs and arms. So, it helps to eradicate the problem without further treatment.

Elevating Extremities

In some cases, to prevent the blood clots from worsening, you need to elevate the involved extremity. So, the elevation of the affected legs or arms can reduce the severity of the problem.

Medications

At times, your doctor may prescribe you some medications to treat the pain that accompanies with the problem. So, to reduce the pain and inflammation, your doctor can suggest anti-inflammatory medications that you can consume orally. Applying topical anti-inflammatory gels or creams on the affected area can improve the blood circulation. It is beneficial for reducing the side-effects due to the clots.

External Compression Stockings

External Compression Stockings

Your doctor may advise you to wear compression fitting stockings to overcome superficial phlebitis in your lower extremities. It is designed to improve the blood flow in the legs and avoid clot formation.

Deep Phlebitis

Deep phlebitis is a serious condition that can escalate to the life-threatening complication known as deep vein thrombosis. You need to consult your doctor to get relief from the issue. Therefore, the treatment focusses on curing the DVT and stop it from recurring in the future. So, the treatment options are:

Anticoagulants

Your doctor may prescribe anticoagulants. The medications make it harder for your blood to clot. So, the blood thinner can avoid the risk of further blood clots.

Thrombectomy

For extensive DVT, you need to undergo invasive surgery known as thrombectomy. It is opted by your doctor when you face significant problems due to DVT like the issues with the blood returning to your limb. The invasive procedure involves inserting a wire as well as a catheter into your affected vein. So, it either removes the blood clot completely or dissolves it. Your doctor can use a specific medication like the tissue plasminogen activators to dissolve the clots. At times, your doctor can remove and dissolve the clots.

Filter Insertion

Filter Insertion

At the time the people who suffer from DVT are more likely to suffer from a pulmonary embolism, but cannot take blood thinners due to health problems. In such cases, your doctor places a filter in the major blood vessel known as vena cava. But, the filter may not prevent the clot formation. It can only stop the clots from traveling to your lungs. Your doctor chooses temporary filters with the removable feature. It is due to the fact that the permanent ones can cause complication after some time like one or two years.

Complications Due To Filters

The filters can lead to some complications that you need to know before undergoing the process. Therefore, the filters put you at risk of the following:

  • Infection
  • Damage to vena cava that threatens your life
  • Blood vessel around the filter enlarges allowing the clots to pass
  • Clots can form around the filter or within it and travel to the lungs

The DVT treatment also focuses on minimizing your risk of getting it again in the future. So, monitoring your risk factor plays an important part in the treatment.

Preventing Phlebitis

You may face the risk of developing phlebitis or subsequent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). You can take the necessary steps to ensure you prevent the clot from forming. So, you can take different actions to avoid clot formation. Therefore, the key actions include:

Talk About Risks

When you need a surgical procedure to alleviate any issue in your body, you need to discuss it with your doctor. If you face the risk of getting the clot, then discuss it in detail with your doctor prior to the surgical procedure. It will help your doctor take the right steps to prevent the problem.

Resume Physical Activity

People who stay in bed for a long time after the surgical procedure can face the risk of phlebitis. So, you need to get up and start walking as soon as possible. It will eliminate the risk of getting clots.

Compression Socks

Old people face the problem of blood clots. So, people more at risk of the issue can start wearing compression socks. It is the specialized elastic garment that you can wear around the legs. The design of the socks compresses your vein. So, it ensures better blood flow and reduces the risk of clots. It also guards you against the progression of venous disorders.

Care While Traveling

People who travel by road or air can stay in the same place for long hours. No movement in the legs can increase the risk of blood clots. Therefore, if you travel for long durations, then stretch your legs at regular intervals. Try to drink lots of water to avoid the risk of clots.

Avoid A Sedentary Lifestyle

Sitting or standing for a long time can increase your risk of phlebitis. So, if you sit for a long time, try to elevate the legs. Some people have jobs that make it compulsory to stand for a long time. In such cases, you can opt to wear compression stockings.

Include Exercise

Exercising regularly can increase the blood circulation in the legs as well as the whole body. It also strengthens the circulatory system and blood vessels. If you cannot perform strenuous exercise, then opt for walking. Walking regularly can improve blood circulation.

Lose Excess Weight

Obesity is one of the common reasons linked to phlebitis. Therefore, shedding some pounds can make a huge difference in your overall health. It also reduces your risk of getting the vein inflammation. So, try to maintain the ideal weight to ward off the health issue.

Medications

If you have blood clot problems before, then consult your doctor. Follow the medication prescribed by your doctor religiously to avoid the issue from cropping up again. The medications may include blood thinners. Therefore, take them as instructed by your doctor.

Diet

When you are highly susceptible to suffering from a blood clot, you need to change your diet. So, you need to follow an anti-inflammatory diet. It may consist of high fiber foods.  The low salt will reduce the complications of phlebitis.

Conclusion

With proper treatment, superficial phlebitis can heal without causing you any lasting side-effects. But, complicated problems like deep vein thrombosis needs immediate medical attention. It is a severe condition that can result in death. Therefore, when you realize you have a blood clot, ensure it does not develop into DVT. Regular monitoring and medications suggested by your doctor can prevent severe complications. If you have experienced DVT earlier, you may become more prone to another attack in the future. So, take proactive steps to avoid phlebitis from creating havoc in your life.

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