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Phlebitis & DVT

Milford Vascular Institute specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of phlebitis and blood clots. 

What is phlebitis? What is DVT?

Phlebitis means inflammation of the vein. Phlebitis can occur in superficial, varicose veins or in deep veins. Patients typically get phlebitis in their legs. The inflamed vein may cause blood clots to form. This is called thrombophlebitis. When phlebitis occurs in deep veins, it is called deep vein thrombophlebitis. Deep vein thrombophlebitis is dangerous and potentially life threatening because the blood clots in the deep veins, called deep vein thrombosis (DVT), could end up breaking off and traveling to the lungs. While superficial phlebitis is rarely dangerous, if left untreated, it could lead to the development of dangerous deep vein thrombophlebitis and DVT.

What causes phlebitis? What causes DVT?

The cause of superficial phlebitis is unclear. Patients may develop phlebitis after a procedure. It can also develop from a trauma to a preexisting varicose vein.DVT may be caused by prolonged inactivity, paralysis, some types of cancer, birth control containing estrogen, genetics, trauma to the inner wall of a vein, or any condition that slows blood flow.

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What are the symptoms of phlebitis? What are the symptoms of DVT?

Superficial phlebitis tends to present as redness along the path of a vein. Patients tend to experience tenderness at the site of the inflammation. The affected area may feel warm to the touch or the patient may have a low grade fever. The patient may experience itching or burning.  Finally, if clots have formed, the vein may feel hard. Symptoms of DVT are swelling of the affected extremity, warmth, or redness. However, DVT may sometimes be present without any symptoms at all.

How is phlebitis/DVT diagnosed?

Superficial phlebitis is diagnosed by a physical examination. DVT is diagnosed with an ultrasound or CT scan.

How do you treat phlebitis? How do you treat DVT?

Superficial phlebitis typically resolves quickly. The providers will tell you to elevate your leg when possible and to use warm compresses on the affected area to ease discomfort. If you have compression stockings, your provider will recommend wearing them. Also, if you are able, your provider will recommend taking an over the counter anti inflammatory, like ibuprofen, to alleviate pain.


DVT requires medical diagnosis and treatment. When diagnosed, your physician will start you on an anticoagulant, more commonly called a blood thinner.  Depending on the size and location of the blood clot, your doctor may have to intervene surgically to break up the clot.


Never hesitate to contact the office if you believe you may be suffering from either of these ailments. The symptoms for these conditions may present very similarly. It is always better to have an ultrasound diagnose superficial phlebitis than to misdiagnose a potentially fatal blood clot.

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