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What Causes Thrombophlebitis And How Dangerous Is It?

Thrombophlebitis (Thrombo + Phlebitis), wherein Thrombo refers to clot and Phlebitis means swelling of a vein, is an inflammatory condition in which a blood clot(s) forms in one or more veins resulting in pain and swelling. This ailment usually affects your leg, but it can also develop in your arms and other parts of the body.

The Types of Thrombophlebitis

The three types of thrombophlebitis are-

● Superficial Thrombophlebitis – If there is a blood clot in a vein right under your skin’s surface, it is called superficial thrombophlebitis. Although it is a painful condition that might require treatment, it does not affect your lungs.

● Deep Vein Thrombosis or DVT – If there is a blood clot in a vein located deep inside your muscles or body, the condition is called DVT. This type of blood clot usually develops in your thigh or lower legs. However, it can affect the other parts of the body too.

Most importantly, in this condition, a blood clot can move along your bloodstream and get into your lungs while blocking blood circulation (pulmonary embolism). This can damage your lungs and eventually causes death.

● Migratory thrombophlebitis – It is also known as Thrombophlebitis migrans or the Trousseau syndrome. In this condition, a blood clot can be recurrent and appear in different parts of your body over time. It is often due an underlying cancer of the lungs or pancreas.

The Symptoms of Thrombophlebitis

The symptoms of thrombophlebitis include –

● Pain and soreness in the affected area

● A feeling of warmth in the affected area

● Redness or discoloration of the skin

● Swelling in the leg or ankle

● A swollen vein that appears like a hard cord

You should seek medical help immediately if –

● The pain gets worse upon touching the affected spot

● The affected leg or arm turns pale or cold followed by fever and chills

● You are unable to do your day to day activities

● You experience shortness of breath, shooting chest pain, and severe lightheadedness

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The Causes of Thrombophlebitis

Formation of a blood clot is the principal cause of thrombophlebitis, and it can form as a result of the following scenarios –

● An injury to the vein of your leg or arm

● Having an IV (intravenous) channel for a considerable time

● An inherited condition related to blood clotting disorders

● Varicose veins

● Being immobile after a surgery or injury leading to restricted blood flow

● Being bedridden for a long time

● Being pregnant or overweight

● Having a central venous catheter or a pacemaker

● Sitting in the same position for a prolonged period

● Having had a stroke

● Are undergoing cancer treatment

● Are taking birth control pills or undergoing hormone replacement therapy

The Complications Arising from Thrombophlebitis

There are rarely any complications associated with superficial thrombophlebitis. However, if you have deep vein thrombosis, there might be some severe complications, including the following –

● Pulmonary embolism – If a deep vein blood clot dislodges, it can go to your lungs and clog an artery. It can be a life-threatening condition.

● Postphlebitic or post-thrombotic syndrome – This condition can occur months or years after deep vein thrombosis. It can lead to long-lasting pain, inflammation in the affected area, and heaviness in the affected limb.

Diagnostic tests for Thrombophlebitis

Your doctor will examine your pain points and ask you about your points of discomfort and symptoms. Then, they will perform the following tests to understand your condition and correctly identify it –

● Ultrasonography – The transducer moved over the affected area of your leg sends sound waves into your leg. As the sound waves travel through your leg tissue and reflect back, a computer transforms the waves into a moving image on a video screen.

This test can confirm the diagnosis and distinguish between superficial and deep vein thrombosis.

● Blood Test – In most cases, if a person has a blood clot, their D dimer level in the blood will be high . D dimer is a clot-dissolving chemical.

Treatment Options for Thrombophlebitis

The following are the treatment options for Thrombophlebitis –

● Medications – Your doctor is likely to prescribe an OTC (over-the-counter) NSAID (Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug) for pain management if you have superficial thrombophlebitis.

● Compression – Your doctor might suggest applying warm compression on the affected area or wearing prescription-strength compression stockings and elevating the leg. Superficial thrombophlebitis heals on its own.

● Anticoagulant – If you have DVT, your doctor might advise taking an anticoagulant (blood-thinning medicines). Such medications can cause a significant amount of bleeding. Therefore, you should not take them without your doctor’s permission while making sure to follow the instructions carefully.

● Clot-dissolving medication – Your doctor is likely to use thrombolysis or thrombolytic therapy to treat DVT. It is a procedure in which your doctors dissolve the dangerous clots with the help of clot-dissolving medications. It is helpful for people with severe DVT and pulmonary embolism.

● IVC filter – If blood thinners are not suitable for you, your doctor may insert an IVC (inferior vena cava) filter to prevent dislodged clots from traveling to your lungs and block blood circulation. The IVC is the largest vein of the human body located in the abdominal wall’s posterior part. Your doctor will remove the filter when its no longer required .

● Varicose vein removal – If you have varicose veins that cause pain or make thrombophlebitis recurrent, your doctor can surgically remove the varicose vein.

Preventive measures for Thrombophlebitis

Sitting in a particular posture for quite a long time, such as during long flights or long drives, can lead to swelling of ankles and calf muscles. It might increase the risk of developing thrombophlebitis. Taking the following preventive measures can help –

● Walk around whenever possible.

● Do not sit for too long . Keep moving.

● Drink plenty of water and non-alcoholic drinks to keep yourself hydrated.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

● How long does thrombophlebitis last?

In most cases, the episodes of thrombophlebitis last for around three weeks to four weeks. However, thrombophlebitis, when linked to varicose veins, are likely to recur at some point in time. If the symptoms are mild, you might not need any treatment.

● Can I exercise with superficial thrombophlebitis?

According to studies, exercising when you have superficial thrombophlebitis can improve pain .However, if you are on bed rest, it is advisable not to exercise.

● What happens if thrombophlebitis is left untreated?

Deep vein thrombosis, if not treated, can lead to pulmonary embolism. It can be life-threatening.

● Is walking suitable for superficial thrombophlebitis?

Yes, walking, and light exercises are suitable for superficial thrombophlebitis, provided you are not on bed rest.

● How can I dissolve a blood clot in my leg naturally?

Blood clots can be complicated and lead to severe health issues. So, it is very advisable to seek medical assistance for the same.

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