Symptoms and Signs of Phlebitis

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 11/1/2021

Doctor's Notes on Phlebitis

Phlebitis is the medical term for inflammation of a vein. Veins are the blood vessels that collect blood and return it to the heart for delivery to the lungs. Thrombophlebitis is phlebitis that occurs together with a blood clot (thrombus) inside of a vein. Phlebitis has many causes. Some of the most common causes include trauma or injury, prolonged immobility, insertion of intravenous (IV) catheters, burns, and certain surgical procedures.

Symptoms of phlebitis include:

  • pain,
  • redness,
  • swelling, and
  • tenderness at the affected area.

If the condition occurs in the leg, it may be difficult to walk. Feeling a cord-like structure along the course of a vein is a possible sign of thrombophlebitis. Other associated symptoms can include fever and drainage of pus. Mild cases of phlebitis may be asymptomatic, meaning that no symptoms are present. 

What Is the Treatment for Phlebitis?

Superficial vein phlebitis of the upper and lower extremities can be treated by:

  • Applying warm compresses
  • Elevating the affected area
  • Encouraging ambulation (walking)
  • Oral or topical anti-inflammatory medications

Deep vein phlebitis may require treatment with blood-thinning (anticoagulation) medications. Certain people with extensive deep vein thrombosis (DVT) may require catheter-directed thrombolysis or placement of inferior vena cava filters to help prevent pulmonary embolus.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.