Superficial Thrombophlebitis

Superficial thrombophlebitis, or superficial vein thrombosis, is a blood clot that occurs in veins under the skin (superficial veins). The condition typically happens in the arms or legs and causes inflammation, pain, redness and swelling. Healthcare providers treat pain and swelling with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.


What is superficial thrombophlebitis?

Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation of the veins near your skin due to blood clots. These are typically in your legs or arms. Veins become painful and red. It’s also called superficial venous thrombosis (SVT).


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Who does superficial thrombophlebitis affect?

Anyone can get superficial thrombophlebitis. The condition is more likely to occur in people who:

How common is superficial thrombophlebitis?

Researchers don’t know exactly how many people get superficial thrombophlebitis each year. It’s more likely to occur in women or people assigned female at birth, especially those above 60 years of age.


How does superficial thrombophlebitis affect me?

Blood clots develop in the veins under your skin, and your veins inflame. The area may swell and become red and painful.

What is the difference between superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT)?

The main differences between superficial thrombophlebitis and DVT are where the blood clots occur and how dangerous the condition is.

Veins move your blood back to your heart. In deep vein thrombosis (DVT), blood clots develop in the body’s deep veins (those not visible through the skin). Blood clots in the deep veins are dangerous because they can travel to the lungs and stop blood flow (pulmonary embolism). Superficial thrombophlebitis occurs in the superficial veins, closer to the skin. It's typically a less dangerous condition than DVT.


Symptoms and Causes

What are the symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis?

If you have superficial thrombophlebitis, you may experience symptoms near the blood clot, including:

  • Pain.
  • Red or discolored skin.
  • Swelling (including sudden swelling).
  • Warm or hot skin.

What causes superficial thrombophlebitis?

Healthcare providers don’t always know why superficial thrombophlebitis develops. But you may develop the condition if you had an:

  • Injury to the area.
  • Intravenous (IV) line in the vein to deliver medicine or IV fluids.

Diagnosis and Tests

How do healthcare providers diagnose superficial thrombophlebitis?

Your healthcare provider does a physical examination to diagnose superficial thrombophlebitis. You'll also have a vascular ultrasound to confirm superficial thrombophlebitis.

Management and Treatment

How do healthcare providers treat superficial thrombophlebitis?

If the area is swollen or painful, your healthcare provider may recommend that you:

Are there complications of superficial thrombophlebitis?

Some people with superficial thrombophlebitis develop DVT. If you have a condition that affects how your blood clots or a history of DVT, your provider may recommend that you take an anticoagulant, which is a blood thinner medication.

How do I manage symptoms of superficial thrombophlebitis?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to reduce the pain and inflammation that superficial thrombophlebitis causes.

Will superficial thrombophlebitis go away?

Superficial thrombophlebitis typically resolves within a few weeks.


How can I reduce my risk of superficial thrombophlebitis?

You can reduce your risk of superficial thrombophlebitis by not sitting for long periods. Stand or walk around often and try to stay active. Talk to your healthcare provider about other steps you can take to reduce your risk.

How do I know if I’m at risk for superficial thrombophlebitis?

Your risk of developing superficial thrombophlebitis may be higher if you:

Are there other conditions that put me at higher risk for superficial thrombophlebitis?

You may develop superficial thrombophlebitis if you have varicose veins. The condition is also more likely to return (recur) if you have varicose veins.

Talk to your healthcare provider about whether varicose vein surgery or venous disease treatments can reduce your risk of superficial thrombophlebitis.

Outlook / Prognosis

What is the outlook if I have superficial thrombophlebitis?

Superficial thrombophlebitis resolves in most people. Talk to your healthcare provider if you have varicose veins or other conditions that make superficial thrombophlebitis more likely to recur.

Living With

How do I take care of myself if I have superficial thrombophlebitis?

Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions. Call your provider if new or worsening symptoms develop.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

In superficial thrombophlebitis, a blood clot forms in a vein under your skin. The condition causes inflammation, pain, redness and swelling. Healthcare providers treat pain and inflammation with elevation, compression and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. The condition typically resolves in a few weeks.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 08/05/2022.

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