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Phlebitis and Varicose Veins – The Link

Varicose Veins

Phlebitis and varicose veins are venous disorders that occur mostly in the later stages of our life. Phlebitis is a term for inflammation of the vein and can occur both in the surface (superficial) or deep veins. Varicose veins refer to twisted, purple-colored veins that are engorged on the legs and occurs mostly on the superficial veins.

Superficial phlebitis

It affects the veins present on the skin surface. This is a complication that can arise due to a surgical procedure. When an injury to a vein occurs, it increases the risk of forming a superficial blood clot. When such blood clots cause inflammation of the veins and slows down the blood flow, thrombophlebitis occurs which can lead to serious complications. “Thrombo” means clot and “phlebitis” means inflammation in the veins.

The condition mostly affects your legs, but can occur in any veins in your body. Since the clot is formed in the vein just below the skin, it is called as superficial thrombophlebitis. Such clots usually do not travel to the lungs unless it reaches the deep veins. But they may turn quite painful and treatment will be necessary in most cases.

Deep vein thrombosis (DVT)

If a blood clot is formed in the veins deep inside the body, it is called a deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Such clots can travel to the lungs and block blood flow to the lungs, a condition called pulmonary embolism (PE) which can even be fatal. DVTs are serious and require immediate treatment.

Phlebitis and varicose veins – how are they linked?

Due to varicose veins, when veins are engorged and become twisted the blood flow slows down and become sluggish. Blood starts pooling in the vessels and this can lead to superficial blood clots. When clots occur along with varicose veins, swelling, tenderness and redness of the affected area, and pain are noticed. The clots allow blood to pool in the vessel instead of flowing in a straight path.

DVT or PE does not commonly occur with varicose veins since the later affect the veins on the surface of the skin (superficial veins) and not on the deep veins. But very serious varicose vein condition can cause DVT. Earlier assessment and proper diagnosis of veins and circulation by a specialist can reduce your risk of DVT to a large extent.

Risk factors for varicose veins

Varicose veins may be an inherited condition. However, there are other factors that can contribute to the formation of varicose veins which include

  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Long hours of standing
  • Hormone therapy or birth control pills
  • Existing blood clots that damage veins
  • Older age group and have weak calf muscles and vein valves.
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Leg injury


Symptoms of varicose veins

Symptoms of Varicose veins must be understood and controlled to prevent other serious problems like blood clots. Few common symptoms of varicose veins include

  • Thick bulging/twisted veins
  • Skin rashes and itchy sensation around veins in your legs
  • Persistent swelling in legs
  • Skin discoloration
  • Regular burning sensation and bouts of severe pain in legs
  • Leg sores

For more details on varicose veins and associated problems, call Avis Vascular Center and talk to our Vascular specialist.

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