Deep Vein Thrombosis vs. Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Superficial Thrombophlebitis and Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) are two possible complications after receiving medical procedures or surgical interventions. Though Superficial Thrombophlebitis can also develop in varicose veins, with some cases progressing to something more serious, such as a DVT. Regardless of what causes a DVT, when a blood clot forms in the deep venous system, Pulmonary Embolism is always a possibility.

What is Superficial Thrombophlebitis?

Simply put, “phlebitis” means inflammation of a vein! The term “thrombo” is medical lingo relating to clotting blood, and “superficial” is designating the location, a vein near the surface of the skin.

Putting this together, Superficial Thrombophlebitis is when a small blood clot causes inflammation of a vessel near the surface of the skin, which usually is in a varicose vein. Thrombophlebitis can affect other vessels in the body, for example in the upper extremities or the external jugular vein. If this occurs, it’s usually as a direct result of using these veins for infusion sites. The catheter tip irritates the inside lining of the vessel wall, a variable in thrombophlebitis.

If you have varicose veins or are recovering from Varicose Vein Treatment, reach out to your Physician if you notice the following:

Redness
Tenderness
Swelling
*Hard knot (if in a varicose vein)
Superficial Thrombophlebitis is usually a self-limiting diagnosis; however, if micro-thrombi, (small blood clots), extend along the greater saphenous vein, it can progress into the deep venous system.

Deep Vein Thrombosis, DVT

When blood clumps together, clot forms within the circulatory system, blocking blood flow. Deep vein thrombosis commonly occurs in the deep veins of the legs and is a complication after surgery and extended hospital stays. But remember, when small blood clots affect the greater saphenous vein, Superficial Thrombophlebitis can progress into the deep venous system. Many DVT symptoms are similar to Superficial Thrombophlebitis, and at times it’s difficult to distinguish between the two diagnoses.

If you experience the following symptoms, reach out to your Doctor immediately!

DVT Symptoms Include:

Swelling in the affected leg
Warmth over the affected extremity
Redness or leg discoloration of the affected extremity
Cramping pain, or soreness, in the calf, foot or leg
Thrombi within the deep vein system, or a DVT, is a serious health concern that requires prompt medical attention and treatment! Sometimes a blood clot breaks loose, traveling through your bloodstream, blocking another vessel somewhere else in your body.

Pulmonary Embolism is a Medical Emergency!

An embolus is a loose blood clot that travels through the bloodstream, lodging in an artery, causing an embolism. When an embolus blocks an artery in the lung, it creates a condition known as Pulmonary Embolism. If you experience shortness of breath, chest pain that increases with a deep breath or a cough, excessive sweating, and a rapid pulse rate, you need to see a Doctor right away!

Pulmonary Embolism is a medical emergency! If the blood clot is large enough and blocks a large pulmonary artery, blood flow can stop altogether, causing cardiac arrest and sudden death. It’s possible to develop small blood clots in your lungs, and over time these micro-emboli damage lung tissue, causing chronic health issues, such as pulmonary hypertension.

Once a deep vein thrombosis or PE has been ruled out by a physician, you can begin to treat the symptoms. A topical gel like Arnica can help with the redness and inflammation. You can also take an anti-inflammatory pill like Tumeric.

Compression Stockings Improve Venous Circulation

It’s pretty pure science: compression stockings assists with circulation, improving venous return. The pressure gradient ensures that blood flows in one direction back towards the heart instead of refluxing downwards to the feet. Another variable in thrombi forming is the stasis of blood flow.

If you have varicose veins or are recovering from a medical procedure, it’s essential to wear your compression stockings to prevent blood from pooling and clots from forming!

There are many different support stockings, and some require a visit to a Vein Specialist for evaluation and a prescription. Reach out to your Doctor for a referral or enter your ZIP code to find a Vein Specialist near you!

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