Superficial vein thrombosis

Thrombosis usually occurs in the deep veins of the extremities, but may also appear in the veins just below the skin. It produces pain but there is no risk of pulmonary embolism

We have two venous systems in the limbs: the deep veins, which run between muscles and bones, and the superficial veins, which are located between the muscles and the skin.

The surface veins tend to be seen below the skin, especially when dilated and full of blood due to the vein wall being dilated (varicose veins). We call surface veins thrombosis phlebitis or thrombophlebitis.

It may occur in the legs, especially in people with varicose veins, and also in the arms (as a result of having had an intravenous catheter).

Phlebitis causes localized painThe hardened vein can often be felt and is painful when touched. Unlike DVT, phlebitis does not cause swelling in the affected limb.

In general, phlebitis does not cause pulmonary embolism, although we usually treat it with anticoagulants  so as to prevent it from growing and turning into DVT. When phlebitis is caused by an intravenous catheter, the latter should be removed to improve the symptoms.


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