Thrombophlebitis is swelling (inflammation) of a vein caused by a blood clot, typically in the legs. Rarely, thrombophlebitis (sometimes called phlebitis) can affect veins in the arms or neck.

The affected vein may be near the surface of the skin, which is called ‘superficial thrombophlebitis’, or deep within a muscle, called ‘deep vein thrombosis’.


Superficial thrombophlebitis symptoms are: warmth, tenderness and pain in the affected area, as well as redness and swelling

Deep vein thrombosis symptoms are: pain and swelling


The blood clot is the cause of thrombophlebitis. The blood clots can be caused by many different things, anything that causes improper circulation of the blood. Blood clots that causes thrombophlebitis could be caused by:

  • An injury to the vein
  • An inherited blood-clotting disorder
  • Being immobile for long periods of time

Risk Factors

The risks of thrombophlebitis increase when someone:

  • Has suffered a stroke that caused paralyzed arms or legs 
  • Is lying in to bed for a long time (after surgery, after a heart attack or after an injury)
  • Has a pacemaker or a catheter in a central vein,
  • Is pregnant or have just given birth, with  increased pressure in the veins of the pelvis and legs
  • Uses birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy
  • Has a family history of a blood-clotting disorder or a tendency to form blood clots easily
  • Is inactive for a long period of time (sitting in a car or an airplane)
  • Is older than 60
  • Has varicose veins, a common cause of superficial thrombophlebitis


The following complications are possible:

  • Swelling.
  • Pulmonary embolism.
  • Post-phlebetic syndrome.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Skin discoloration.


To help prevent the formation of a blood clot:

  • Take a walk. When flying, walk around the airplane cabin from time to time. When driving, stop regularly to take a small walk.
  • In case you need to sit, move the legs. Flex the ankles, press the feet against the floor or footrest a few times during the flight.
  • Avoid wearing tight shoes and clothes.
  • Drink fluids to avoid dehydration, not alcohol.
  • Stretch the legs every now and then.

Deep vein thrombosis may be prevented by the use of:

  • Stockings for compression.
  • Blood-thinning medication.