Phlebitis is an ancient Greek term for inflammation of a vein - either superficial or deep. It can be caused by several factors and, while irritating, is mostly harmless and short-lived.
Thrombophlebitis is a word used to describe a blood clot inside a vein which causes an inflammatory reaction. Thrombophlebitis can occur in either the superficial (SVT) or deep venous systems (DVT) . Historically, the textbooks have taught us that while Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) can be serious to sometimes life-threatening, Superficial Thrombophlebitis (SVT) is a clot in the surface veins near or just below the skin. This has been thought to always present as red, inflamed, tender veins. We have been trained as physicians and therefore have taught the public these veins when clotted are not serious and easily treated with aspirin and heat. And also, that these veins do not propagate into the more serious, deep veins.
Recent research done at Illinois Vein Specialists has shown this belief to be essentially wrong. In fact, nearly 10% of the patients treated had evidence of prior blood clots in their superficial veins of which they had no knowledge. Moreso, we have discovered at IVS clear ultrasound evidence in over 20 patients this year alone of the propagation of superficial blood clots into the deep vein system, provoking the need for powerful anti-clotting medicine to be taken by the patients for weeks to several months.
If you consider that 50% of life-threatening blood clots have an undiscovered cause, clearly it is time we changed our beliefs about superficial vein disease. It should be understood by everyone to be an important circulatory issue, not simply a cosmetic concern.
DVT and SVT commonly occur in the lower extremities but may rarely occur in the arms or neck as well.
DVT and Varicose Veins share many similar symptoms and causes:
Symptoms: Pain, swelling in the leg or redness, and/or tightness of skin around the vein.
Recurring leg cramps or restless leg (restless leg syndrome).
Causes: Heredity; Oral contraceptives (i.e. birth control pills); Pregnancy- particularly for women who have given birth to 3+ children; Trauma or a sports related injury to the leg that weakens or breaks the veins; Long rest periods or inactivity, especially as the result of post-op orthopedic procedures.
By treating the incompetent veins in the lower legs that cause varicose veins, we can safely eliminate the veins in which blood clots form most often. This restores essentially normal blood flow to the legs by closing the veins in which blood pools. This blood often leads to clotting.