Venous inflammation, known in medical terms as phlebitis, is a condition in which superficial veins become inflamed. Such veins are often varicose veins. It is less common for a vein to become inflamed after a the vein wall has been injured by an injection, an infusion or when blood is taken. Sometimes small blood clots also form during venous inflammation (thrombi). This is known as thrombophlebitis.
Superficial venous inflammation is not usually dangerous and heals relatively quickly. Nevertheless, it should always be looked at by a doctor as thrombi can form which later develop into deep vein thrombosis. Chronic varicose veins are often the cause of superficial venous inflammation. The impaired blood flow in the varicose veins and the damaged vein wall facilitate the development of inflammation. It is less common for phlebitis to occur, for example, from an injection or when blood is taken.
Typical symptoms of venous inflammation are reddening of the affected vein, overheating in the area of the veins and dragging pain along the vein. If there is concomitant thrombosis, hardened, painful nodules can occur in the affected venous cord. If the patient becomes feverish as well, this is an indication of advanced venous inflammation and must be treated with antibiotics.
Venous inflammation can be diagnosed easily and quickly on the basis of the typical symptoms. An ultrasound examination or an x-ray of the veins using contrast agent is also carried out to examine the deep veins (Phlebography).
Superficial vein inflammation usually heals quickly with appropriate treatment. Compressions, cooling ointments, anti-clotting ointments as well as anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving medication is used as treatment. Adequate movement is recommended to prevent thromboses from forming. Blood-thinning medication is used to combat thrombophlebitis which is threatening to spread into the deep vein system.
Varicose veins can be removed with different surgical procedures to prevent venous inflammation. Find out more about this in the varicose vein surgery section.