Are Superficial Thrombophlebitis and Deep Vein Thrombosis Treated the Same Way?

Superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis are types of thrombophlebitis, a condition where a vein becomes inflamed because of the presence of a blood clot. The two differ because the latter is a severe condition that often requires immediate medical attention. Thrombophlebitis typically affects the veins in the lower legs, but it can also affect the veins in the arms and other parts of the body. Treatments for superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis differ because the latter is a more severe condition and may have life threatening consequences.

Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Our legs have superficial and deep veins. Clot may develop in either or both of them.  Superficial thrombophlebitis is less dangerous than conditions in the deep veins because clot within our superficial veins is much less likely to break off and travel through the heart. It's usually a temporary condition that can be treated in a couple of weeks. 

To treat isolated superficial thrombophlebitis, you need to take anti-inflammatory medications and very rarely blood thinners. You can also elevate your legs and use a cold compress to alleviate symptoms. Severe cases of superficial thrombophlebitis may require the need for blood thinners to avoid progression to deep vein thrombosis.

Deep Vein Thrombosis

When thrombophlebitis happens in one of the larger deep veins, the condition is called deep vein thrombosis or DVT. It usually occurs in the legs, where the clogged veins block circulation. The condition can become dangerous if the clot within the vein breaks off and moves. The clot then goes to the heart and other parts of the body. A dangerous condition called pulmonary embolism (PE) happens when the blood clot travels to the heart and into the lungs, which becomes lodged in the pulmonary arteries.

Some symptoms of deep vein thrombosis to watch out for include swelling, pain, discoloration, tenderness, and redness in the affected area of the leg. However, only half of the people suffering from deep vein thrombosis experience these symptoms. If you have a clot in your legs, you may not feel any symptoms until the clot itself breaks off, goes to your lungs, and develops into pulmonary embolism. The symptoms of pulmonary embolism include chest pain when breathing and shortness of breath. This condition is very dangerous and can sometimes be fatal.

If you have deep vein thrombosis, you need to take blood-thinning medications to prevent new blood clots and current ones from growing. If your doctor sees that you’re in immediate danger, you need thrombolytics to dissolve the blood clot. Depending on your medical history and associated co-morbities, you may also need a inferior vena cava filter to prevent the clot from reaching your lungs and stop the development of pulmonary embolism. 

Varicose Veins and Deep Vein Thrombosis

Having varicose veins increases your risk of deep vein thrombosis. So if you have varicose veins, it's essential to seek professional treatment. It would be best if you went to see an expert like Dr. Vinay Madan at the Center for Varicose Veins. Dr. Madan and his staff use advanced procedures to treat varicose veins and other venous diseases.

Author
Dr. Vinay Madan, MD, DABVLM Dr. Vinay Madan, MD, DABVLM Dr. Vinay Madan is a board certified Interventional Radiologist and Phlebologist with over 25 years of experience in treating vein disease. Dr. Madan has served as the Chairman of Radiology and Section Head of Vascular Interventional Radiology at Eastern Connecticut Health Network. Dr. Madan brings a wealth of knowledge which allows him to treat patients with cosmetic and medical vein disease in a caring and compassionate way.

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