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Phlebitis Definition

Phlebitis (fle-BYE-tis) is a condition in which a vein becomes inflamed (phleb=vein + it is=inflammation). The inflammation may cause pain and swelling. When the inflammation is caused by a blood clot or thrombus, it is called thrombophlebitis. Thrombophlebitis usually occurs in leg veins, but it may also affect the veins in the arms.

There are two sets of veins in the arms and legs, 1) the superficial veins that run just under the skin, and 2) the deep veins.

Superficial phlebitis affects veins on the skin surface. The condition is rarely serious and usually resolves with local treatment of the inflammation with warm compresses and anti-inflammatory medications. Sometimes superficial phlebitis can be associated with deep vein thrombophlebitis and medical evaluation may be needed.

Phlebitis in the deep veins is referred to as deep vein thrombophlebitis (or DVT, deep vein thrombosis) affects the veins located deeper in the arms and legs. Blood clots (thrombi) that form may embolize or break off and travel to the lungs. This is a potentially life-threatening condition called pulmonary embolism.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/3/2014
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DVT (Blood Clot in the Leg)

Phlebitis in the deep veins

Deep venous thrombosis (DVT) refers to a blood clot embedded in one of the major deep veins of the lower legs, thighs, or pelvis. A clot blocks blood circulation through these veins, which carry blood from the lower body back to the heart. The blockage can cause acute pain, swelling, or warmth in the affected leg. Blood clots in the veins can cause inflammation (irritation) called thrombophlebitis.

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Thrombophelbitis, Septic »

The clinical course and severity of septic thrombophlebitis are quite variable.

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