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How To Recognise Phlebitis: A Guide to The Signs and Symptoms

If you are concerned that you might have phlebitis, this article will tell you what you need to look for, what features are strongly suggestive of phlebitis and what you should do.
If you are reading this,  I think it is probably safe to assume that you already know that phlebitis is serious. If you don’t well, here are the facts.

  • Phlebitis is an inflammatory condition of the vein and it is always associated clot formation in the vein, which can spread and propagate into the deep veins. These clots can break loose and travel around to the lungs.
  • Some studies suggest that up to a third of people with phlebitis will develop clots in the lungs based on careful lung scans.
  • Given the potential for serious complications, prompt recognition of the problem is paramount. That means you the sufferer being aware that you might have phlebitis and knowing what to do.

So what does phlebitis look and feel like? Firstly, phlebitis nearly always occurs in the legs. Other places are very much less common. So for example, phlebitis coming on out of the blue and affecting the arms or the chest is rare. Phlebitis usually starts in a varicose vein or nearby and it is very painful and tender. Movement aggravates the pain so walking is uncomfortable. Often the skin over the vein is red and feels warm and there is usually a lump. The commonest vein to be affected is the great saphenous vein on the inner part of the thigh. The overlying discolouration of the skin marks out the course of the inflamed vein underneath. So any painful, tender, red, warm lump in the leg particularly if it is tubular in shape and located on the inner part of the thigh or calf or in the region of varicose veins, should be considered to be phlebitis until proven otherwise.
The only way to be absolutely sure you either have or have not got phlebitis is to have a duplex ultrasound scan. Once correctly diagnosed and treated the risks of serious complications from phlebitis can then reduced.
So here are my top tips.

  1. It is up to you to be aware of the possibility of phlebitis particularly if you already have varicose veins.
  2. If you have a tender, red warm tubular lump in the leg seek medical advice and request a duplex ultrasound scan. I still see many people with this condition who are not diagnosed or treated properly so it really is up to you.

If you would like more information about phlebitis visit our website or request our free information fact sheet on phlebitis. In addition, if you would like to request a consultation and scan give us a call.