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.
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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Anyone can get superficial thrombophlebitis. The condition is more likely to occur in people who:
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.
Blood clots develop in the veins under your skin, and your veins inflame. The area may swell and become red and painful.
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.
If you have superficial thrombophlebitis, you may experience symptoms near the blood clot, including:
Healthcare providers don’t always know why superficial thrombophlebitis develops. But you may develop the condition if you had an:
If the area is swollen or painful, your healthcare provider may recommend that you:
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.
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions to reduce the pain and inflammation that superficial thrombophlebitis causes.
Superficial thrombophlebitis typically resolves within a few weeks.
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.
Your risk of developing superficial thrombophlebitis may be higher if you:
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.
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.
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.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/05/2022.
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