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Superficial Thrombophlebitis

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Superficial Thrombophlebitis

(Phlebitis; Thrombophlebitis)


Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of a vein close to the skin surface. It happens most often in the leg. The condition is easily treatable. But, it can lead to more serious health problems.


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This condition is caused by a blood clot forming in the vein.

Risk Factors

Superficial thrombophlebitis is more common in women. The risk is higher in those aged 60 years or more. Other things that raise the risk are:

  • History of vein problems or blood clotting problems
  • Long term bed rest or sitting
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • An IV, injury, or recent surgery
  • Certain cancers
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Immune system problems


Symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis may be:

  • A vein that looks like a cord
  • Redness, warmth, and tenderness around the vein
  • Swelling around the vein

It can lead to problems such as:


The doctor will ask about symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done.

Imaging tests will be done to diagnose superficial thrombophlebitis. They may include:


Superficial thrombophlebitis often goes away on its own in a few weeks. If needed, treatment may involve:

  • Wearing compression stockings—to improve blood flow in legs
  • Exercise
  • Medicines such as:
    • NSAIDs like ibuprofen—to ease pain and inflammation
    • Blood thinners
  • Procedures to remove the blood clot—if the problem gets worse or returns


The risk of having this problem may be lowered by:

  • Walking around the cabin every hour when flying
  • Pulling over every hour or so and stretching when driving long distances




  • Heit, J.A., Spencer, F.A., et al. The epidemiology of venous thromboembolism. Journal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis, 2016; 41 (1): 3-14.
  • Superficial vein thrombosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/superficial-vein-thrombosis-svt.
  • Superficial venous thrombosis. Merck Manual Professional Version website. Available at: https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular-disorders/peripheral-venous-disorders/superficial-venous-thrombosis.


  • Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.