The term phlebitis refers to an inflammation of a vein, usually in the leg, frequently accompanied by blood clots that adhere to the wall of the vein. When the affected vein is close to the surface, the condition is called superficial phlebitis.
Contributing Risk Factors
Risk factors for any type of phlebitis
include recent surgery or childbirth, varicose veins
, inactivity, sitting for long periods (such as on a long airplane ride), and smoking. Prolonged placement of intravenous catheters can also cause phlebitis, possibly requiring antibiotic treatment. The use of progestins (synthetic progesterones, but not natural progesterone
) will increase the likelihood of deep vein thrombophlebitis
by 3 to 4 times.
Signs and Symptoms
Symptoms of superficial phlebitis
include pain, swelling, redness, and warmth around the affected vein. The vein feels hard to the touch because of the clotted blood.
Deep vein thrombosis
is more difficult to diagnose. It can occur without any symptoms until the clot reaches the lungs
. However, in about half of cases, there are warning symptoms including swelling, pain and warmth in the entire calf, ankle, foot, or thigh (depending on where the involved vein is located). Although these symptoms can also be caused by more benign conditions, deep vein thrombosis is such a life-threatening disorder that physician consultation is necessary.
Treatment and Prevention
Conventional treatments for superficial phlebitis
include analgesics for pain, warm compresses, and compression bandages or stockings to increase blood flow. In more severe cases, anticoagulants or minor surgery may be required. Superficial phlebitis inflammation
generally is reduced within 7-10 days, but it may be 3-6 weeks for the problem to be entirely gone.
Deep vein thrombosis
requires more aggressive treatment, including hospitalization, strong anticoagulants, and a variety of possible surgical procedures.Note: Because deep vein phlebitis is a potentially life-threatening disorder, you should seek a doctor's advice before attempting any natural treatments.
Aortic glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) are substances found in the tissues of the body including blood vessels, and sometimes available supplementally. They are closely related to the anticoagulant
drug heparin. Preliminary evidence suggests that aortic GAGs might be helpful in treating phlebitis, although not all studies agree. [Ann Ital Med Int. 1989;4: pp.378-85, Minerva Med. 1984;75: pp.1733-8
(to be taken 4 times daily for up to 7 days):
- If the condition follows an injury: Arnica 6c
- If bruising persists: Hamamelis 6c
- If the veins are worse in heat and when the limb is not elevated: Pulsatilla 6c.
- Include niacin in the diet. This B vitamin helps prevent clotting. Vitamin C helps strengthen the walls of veins and arteries.
- Eat a good nourishing diet of fruits, vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
- Do not eat fried, salty, processed foods; dairy products; or hydrogenated vegetable oils. Do not eat meat.
- A high-protein diet increases blood-clotting factors.
- Use enough fiber in the diet, so you do not have to strain at the stool. Straining increases venous pressure on the legs.
- Maintain a low-fat diet and drink enough water.
- It is now known that food allergies can be involved. Search them out and eliminate them.
- Avoid dangling the feet. Pressure against the popliteal vessels may cause obstruction of blood flow. Do not cross your legs.
- Deep breathing or singing helps empty out the large veins, thus increasing venous circulation.
- Quit tobacco. If you smoke, and seem to keep having recurring phlebitis, you may have Buerger's disease (which see). Its symptoms are severe pain and blood clots, usually in the legs. Smoking constricts the blood vessels.
- Do not wear anything tight about the waist, or bands on the legs.
- Beware of "economy class syndrome." A remarkable number of people who fly in the cramped economy class seats of jets develop thromboplebitis. You are confined to your seat more on planes than in cars or boats. So request an aisle seat and get up every 30 minutes and walk up and down the aisles.
- Once you have had phlebitis, or clots of any type, you can have it again. Surgery or prolonged bed rests increase the likelihood that you will have another attack. Keep that in mind when you consider elective surgery.
- Fasting decreases blood coagulation, and can be beneficial when needed.
Prognosis; Complications; Seek medical attention if...
This condition usually resolves on its own without further complications.
occurs in a deep vein, it is called deep vein thrombosis
(DVT). DVT is a life-threatening condition because a clot could dislodge from the vein and lodge in the lungs
If a swollen, painful vein does not disappear within 2 weeks, consult a physician.