“Blood Clots” occur as a result of coagulation of blood in the blood vessels. In the veins of the human body, blood clots occur regularly in small undetectable amounts but they are also broken down as soon as they are formed. This balance of blood clot formation-vs-break down (“thrombosis-vs-thrombolysis”) is part of normal human physiology in a healthy body.
There are some increased risk factors for vein conditions that can tilt this balance towards blood clot formation (thrombosis):
- Tissue trauma (as following surgery or any tissue injury)
- Stasis (as when the blood flow stops or slows down significantly inside the vein)
- Hypercoagulability (as in, for example, hereditary conditions of increased tendency to form blood clots, or in non-hereditary conditions such as cancer and taking birth control pills)
Blood clots in the legs can involve either superficial veins or deep veins.
Phlebitis is inflammation of a superficial vein that often occurs as a result of a blood clot, hence “thrombophlebitis.” In addition to the above risk factors, varicose veins and venous insufficiency may cause superficial thrombophlebitis. The condition is relatively common, affecting approximately 300,000 American adults each year. This condition affects mostly varicose veins and sometimes a group of superficial veins called “saphenous veins” that are anywhere from 1 cm to 3 cm underneath the skin.
Risk Factors for Superficial Thrombophlebitis
There are a number of factors that can increase your risk for developing superficial thrombophlebitis, including:
- Prolonged periods of sitting or standing
- Weight gain
- Birth control pills or other “hormone supplementation”
- Some medical conditions
Symptoms of Superficial Thrombophlebitis
Symptoms of phlebitis may be significantly uncomfortable and may include:
- Pain around the affected vein
- Swelling and redness in the area
- Area may feel warm or tender to the touch
- Low-grade fever
- Itchiness or burning of skin around the vein
Treatment for Superficial Thrombophlebitis
This condition is commonly treated at home with rest and warm compresses applied to the area. Some patients may also be prescribed compression stockings to aid circulation in the area. If varicose veins are nearby, treatment to remove those affected veins at some point subsequently may also be recommended. Selected patients with additional risk factors for deep vein blood clots may also be prescribed blood-thinning or clot dissolving medication to eliminate any blood clots that are detected with the condition.
The chance for superficial thrombophlebitis to lead to deep vein thrombosis (DVT) is relatively low, in general. DVT in the legs (or the arms for that matter) is a potentially life-threatening condition because the blood clot can propagate towards the pelvic veins, or break off and travel to the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism (PE) and possible death. Some cases of superficial thrombophlebitis may result in DVT and PE. The chance of this occurring is higher if the superficial blood clot is towards the groin; if the extent and scope is large; if there has been previous episodes of blood clots in the past; etc.
It is certainly not worth the risk, and therefore, any superficial thrombophlebitis should be evaluated by a physician. If there is any question, it should be evaluated by a vein specialist.
Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
DVT is a potentially life-threatening condition where one of the deep veins in the body forms blood clots and obstructs the blood flow back to the heart. DVT in the legs is associated with pulmonary embolism if the clot dislodges and travels to the lungs. DVT is suspected in any sudden development of leg pain and swelling. If there is any question when these symptoms develop, contact our staff at Advanced Vein Care Center for an urgent consultation, or contact your primary care physician. If unable to see any physician urgently, then go to your nearest emergency department for evaluation with an ultrasound.
Blood clots and Deep Vein Thrombosis treatment can be a complicated process to explain, but our staff is here to help. This is an urgent issue and needs to be addressed immediately. Please contact our Springfield, MA office via phone at (413) 732-4242 OR go to your nearest emergency department for evaluation.