Thrombophlebitis is the term for a vein that becomes inflammed with clot. This can occur anywhere in the body but typically involves the superficial veins of the arms and legs where it is termed superficial thrombophlebitis. When it occurs a normally soft, compressible vein becomes a hard, painful lump that is tender to touch. The surrounding skin is often warm and blanching red giving the appearance of infection. In the legs, thrombophlebitis is often a complication of varicose veins, while in the arms it is associated with IV needlesticks and catheters.
Superficial thrombophlebitis is responsive to treatment with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen, and icing the area also helps increase comfort. Of course, any related IV catheter should be removed immediately. It is important to undergo prompt medical evaluation as an estimated 25% of people with the condition develop a serious medical complication of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE). Severe inflammation and persistent clotting requires treatment with blood thinners in order to stop the clotting process and prevent further complications. An ultrasound can determine whether a DVT is present.
Varicose veins are a risk factor and if you have this, compression stockings and avoidance of prolonged sitting is necessary. To prevent the condition or if you have already had an episode of superficial thrombophlebitis, varicose vein treatment is recommended to prevent further episodes.