Understanding Phlebitis

Veins on fire – this is what many patients have described about this common medical condition. When you have phlebitis, your veins swell and become tender to the touch. You may also notice your skin changing colour. This disorder can be extremely painful and make it difficult to move or even stand.

If the medical term sounds foreign to you, you may be surprised that this condition is far more common. In Singapore and around the world, the incidence of phlebitis stands at about 31% from intravenous (IV) catheter use. Given its high occurrence, it is important to know what this condition is all about.

What is Phlebitis?

Phlebitis is a vein inflammation and often occurs in a person’s legs. The veins are blood vessels in the human body responsible for carrying blood from the limbs and organs toward the heart.

A person can feel inconvenienced by phlebitis, which can be due to damage to his vein wall. Another reason this body complication happens is a blood clot blocking a vein that results in inflammation, and this disease is also referred to as thrombophlebitis.

There are two types of phlebitis – superficial phlebitis and deep vein phlebitis

Superficial phlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis is often caused by damage to the inner lining of the vein. This can happen from injections, catheters, or trauma. The damage allows blood cells and other substances to leak out of the blood vessels and into the surrounding tissue. This causes inflammation and pain.

In some cases, superficial thrombophlebitis is caused by a blood clot that forms in a vein that’s already narrowed or blocked. This is more likely to happen if you have varicose veins.

This condition is typically not serious. Nevertheless, patients should not merely dismiss this disorder because it can lead to bloodstream infections, wounds on the skin, and infection of the surrounding skin.

People with superficial phlebitis experience symptoms such as a visible red “streaking” on their skin along the vein, redness, swelling, and tenderness. Additionally, they may feel the warmth on the affected area or notice a cord or rope-like structure they can feel through their skin if the inflamed vein is near their skin’s surface.

Superficial thrombophlebitis is treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, warm compresses, and elevation of the affected leg. In some cases, your doctor might prescribe anticoagulant medication to help prevent deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Surgery is rarely needed.

Deep vein phlebitis

Deep vein phlebitis is the inflammation of a larger and deeper vein within a muscle, like that found in the legs. It results in a person feeling warmth in the affected limb. 

The discomfort may be more noticeable when walking or flexing the foot. Furthermore, if the inflamed vein is deep, a patient may complain that his thigh or calf hurts. Besides this pain in the affected area, skin discolouration and swelling are also among the deep vein phlebitis indicators. As blood clots usually cause deep vein phlebitis, they can have very serious consequences.

After all, the blood clot may break off and head towards a person’s lungs. This disease, also known as pulmonary embolism, is serious and life-threatening.

Pulmonary embolism patients usually feel the discomforts of chest pain, unexplained shortness of breath, pain when breathing deeply, and rapid breathing. Moreover, they may cough up blood, have fast heart rates, and feel lightheaded or as though they will pass out. Pulmonary embolism is a medical or healthcare emergency that needs calling the local emergency services for immediate medical treatment.

Risk Factors

Phlebitis is common among certain groups of people. The following are those who have increased risk:

  • Pregnant women
  • Obese or overweight people
  • People with a history of blood clotting disorders
  • Smokers
  • Alcohol drinkers
  • People with varicose veins
  • Elderly individuals aged 60 years or older
  • Cancer patients undergoing treatments
  • People who sit or are inactive for long periods of time
  • Women taking hormone therapy or birth control pills

These people are more likely to experience deep vein or superficial phlebitis. When phlebitis pain strikes, they should seek their physicians’ attention immediately.

Treatment Options

For the most part, phlebitis pain should not worry patients. This condition may involve basic medical treatment by a doctor or self-care home treatment, depending on whether the patient has superficial or deep vein phlebitis. Among the ways to heal phlebitis at home is by keeping the leg raised while resting to prevent the swelling and by applying a warm compress to the inflamed area. 

Patients also have the choice to take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. However, phlebitis patients taking a blood thinner should not take NSAIDs unless their physician prescribed these medicines. 

Deep vein phlebitis patients, on the other hand, typically require urgent care. Doctors may prescribe medications like anticoagulant blood-thinning medicines and thrombolytics, and also perform medical procedures like thrombectomy, varicose vein treatment, and vena cava filter use to resolve deep vein phlebitis

Phlebitis Care Right at Home

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort from superficial phlebitis, you may have trouble moving around and may need extra support. If you’re providing care for a loved one at home who has phlebitis, you will need to learn to manage their condition and keep them comfortable. With proper care, most people with phlebitis will recover completely.

Jaga-Me offers both telemedicine and home caregiving services. As a professional healthcare provider, phlebitis patients will be able to connect with trained doctors to diagnose and treat their condition. Our care aides can also provide nursing and respite care support, no matter where they are in Singapore.

Contact us to seek help for phlebitis and a wide range of other medical conditions today.

Award winning Home Care trusted by health professionals – Jaga-Me

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