Phlebitis

A vein is a blood vessel that takes blood towards the heart. If a vein becomes inflamed, a blood clot commonly forms inside the inflamed portion. So, the term thrombophlebitis is used to mean an inflamed vein, with or without a small blood clot inside the vein. Thrombophlebitis is commonly just called phlebitis.

This is a very common condition and, although figures are difficult to find, it seems to be more common in those aged over 60 in India. It also results as a consequence of the Intravenous therapy. Intravenous therapy has the objective of administering medications, fluids, electrolytes and blood products to patients. This therapy is most often administered through peripheral venous access, the installation of which is a routine procedure performed in the hospital environment under the responsibility of the nursing staff.  Untrained and malpractice by nurses in this regard is one of the major cause of phlebitis in India.

Phlebitis frequently occurs with an intravenous cannula. Either the cannula or the infusion may have caused the inflammation. A small lump may appear days or weeks after the cannula has been removed and it can take months to resolve completely. The common sites coincide with those of common medical interventions (arm or neck with external jugular vein cannulation).

Phlebitis in a varicose vein develops as a tender hard knot in the vein. There is often erythema and bleeding may occur as the reaction extends through the vein wall. It is common with venous stasis ulcers. Both varicose vein and venous skin ulcers are common in South Asian countries

Causes of Phlebitis

Phlebitis has many causes. Some of the common causes of phlebitis are:

  • Local trauma or injury to the vein
  • Travelling, such as, long driving or plane rides
  • Insertion of intravenous catheters (IV) in hospitals, or IV induced phlebitis
  • After surgery (post-operative period), especially orthopedic procedures
  • Prolonged immobility, as in hospitalized or bed-ridden patients
  • Varicose veins
  • Underlying cancers or clotting disorders
  • Disruption of normal venous system drainage because of removal of lymph nodes, for example, after mastectomy for breast cancer
  • intravenous drug use
  • Patients with burns
  • Use of oral contraceptive pills
  • Obesity
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Pregnancy

 Symptoms of Phlebitis

Phlebitis is most common in the lower part of the legs, but can also affect other parts. Phlebitis, if mild, may or may not cause symptoms. Mentioned below are the complaints regarding phlebitis:

  • Tender red area
  • Bulging of the vein
  • Warmth
  • High grade fever
  • Pus discharge
  • Swelling of the involved limb
  • Pain
  • Throbbing, burning sensations over the affected area
  • Difficulty in doing daily activities

Symptoms may be worse when the leg is lowered, especially when first getting out of bed in the morning. A low-grade fever may occur. Sometimes phlebitis may occur where a peripheral intravenous line was started. The surrounding area may be sore and tender along the vein. Recovery of symptoms from superficial phlebitis can last a few weeks

Prevention of Phlebitis

It’s not that much difficult to prevent phlebitis. Following points should be kept in mind to keep a reasonable distance from phlebitis:

  • Stay active and do regular exercise
  • Use Lumino Cielo compression socks to improve your blood flow as well as to help relieve your pain and swelling.
  • Avoid bed rest for prolonged periods.
  • Raise the leg above the level of heart to help reduce swelling
  • Getting up and about as soon as possible after surgery
  • Quitting smoking
  • Press a cold flannel over the vein to ease any pain
  • Standing up, stretching, and moving your feet periodically during long flights or car rides can help to develop phlebitis

Home Remedy of Phlebitis

As people age their health can often deteriorates, and one of the common ailments that people, particularly women, suffer from is phlebitis. For those who are interested in herbal medications, it is important to understand that while herbal treatments may help eliminate symptoms, their benefits are limited to the period of time that the medication is being taken. They do not fix the underlying cause of the symptoms.  Phlebitis can be managed with following home remedies:

  • The application of heat and cold alternatively is excellent for trying to reduce swelling in the affected area and to promote relaxation.
  • Taking a hot bath can also be a good for reducing inflammation and give relief.
  • Take vitamin B supplements regularly, especially those that consist of vitamin B12, 6 and folate. These vitamins help in ameliorating superficial phlebitis due to its various actions.
  • Turmeric is an effective remedy for phlebitis. Make sure that you eat turmeric in your food, and you can even apply it to the area of the phlebitis or clot.
  • Take ginger tea. Ginger is known to be effective against clot formation and to help general circulation.
  • Flaxeed oil is beneficial for veins and improves circulation preventing phlebitis. You can use this in salads.
  • Gotu kola is a trailing plant native to Asia. Its many uses include the treatment of venous insufficiency and the healing of wounds.
  • Red vine leaf extract, strengthen blood vessels and reduce inflammation, and it is used to maintain leg circulation and improve tired, heavy, aching legs.
  • Butcher’s broom has shown decreases in leg swelling, pain and stiffness due to phlebitis thereby improving circulation through the veins.

Treatment of Phlebitis

Treatment of phlebitis may depend on the location, extent, symptoms, and underlying medical conditions. Treatment includes:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help lessen the pain and inflammation
  • Antibiotics can be prescribed to fight against infection.
  • Topical anti-inflammatory medications may also be beneficial, such as Diclofenac gel.
  • Catheter-directed thrombolysis.
  • Placement of inferior vena cava filters.
  • Surgery can be done in more severe cases.
  • Physical Therapy is recommended for improving the quality of life in phlebetic patients.
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