. Thursday, September 25, 2008
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You’d probably think that any disease with a name like phlebitis, which involves inflamed veins, would likely be mighty serious. Actually, it’s usually not.

Phlebitis generally occurs on the surface veins of the leg. It’s not hand to diagnose. There’s usually redness and a hard swelling along the affected vein. And oh, yes, it hurts.

Who gets phlebitis? The top candidates are people with varicose veins, those raised and twisted lines of blue just beneath the skin of the legs. Often it’s an injury in one of these protruding veins that causes the vein to inflame.

So the best way to prevent phlebitis is to treat your varicose veins kindly and gently. That means staying active, elevating your legs whenever you can, wearing compression stockings and doing all of the other good things suggested in “Varicose Veins.”

Quick Care

Should you develop phlebitis, rest assured that it will probably cure itself within a week or so. But you should check with your doctor to be sure veins deep in the legs aren’t affected. If you develop a fever, see your physician right away. In the meantime, here are a few simple steps to help speed your recovery.

Keep moving around. Long periods of standing or sitting keep pressure on the blocked vein. Perhaps the best favor you can do for your phlebitis is to get active. “Don’t stay in bed all day. Continue your normal activities. Move around,” says Mitchel Silane, M.D., clinical associate professor of surgery at Cornell Medical School and associate attending surgeon at New York Hospital––Cornell Medical Center. If your normal schedule includes a lot of sitting or standing in one place, intentionally getting up and walking at least several times a day for the duration of the inflammation could make a huge difference, he says.

Raise your leg. While you’re watching television or reading, lie down and put up your leg, says Dr. Silane. This will help the blood flow. After the phlebitis is gone, raising your leg should become a lifelong habit to help control varicose veins.

Apply heat. A heating pad or warm towel applied for 15 minutes can soothe the painful area around the clogged vein, says Dr. Silane.

Take a painkiller. Aspirin or ibuprofen may relieve much of the pain and reduce the inflammation. Take your pills or capsules as needed, following the directions on the bottle, says Dr. Silane.

Try some zinc. Zinc oxide ointment, available over the counter at your pharmacy, may help relieve any itching you have. Just smear this onto the area that itches.

Deep Trouble

Although most superficial phlebitis is not dangerous, it has a cousin that is: deep venous thrombosis, sometimes referred to as deep thrombophlebitis. Deep venous thrombosis is usually caused by a blood clot in one of the veins deep within the leg. The big danger is that such a blood clot may break free and travel to the lungs. And that can be fatal, says Francis Kazmier, M.D., head of the Section on Vascular Medicine at the Ochsner Clinic in New Orleans.

Ironically, unlike superficial phlebitis, deep venous thrombosis often causes no redness or lumps. If it causes any symptoms at all, those symptoms may include pain and swelling in the leg, with some blue discoloration. Another irony is that if you develop deep venous thrombosis, you need to be hospitalized––but you may already be in a hospital! That’s because the most common cause of deep venous thrombosis is extended inactivity, says Dr. Kazmier. Aside from those bound to hospital beds, others susceptible to developing deep venous thrombosis include those who take oral contraceptives, overweight people who sit for long stretches of time and pregnant women.

Doctors who suspect deep venous thrombosis often rely on ultrasound, a highly accurate and painless test, to make a firm diagnosis. If detected, they also treat it aggressively. You’ll get large intravenous doses of blood-thinning medication. After you’re discharged, you’ll take an oral blood-thinning drug, such as Coumadin, for a period of weeks to sometimes months, depending on your condition.

Contrary to what you may think, the blood-thinning medications don’t dissolve the clot. They keep new clots from forming while your own body dissolves the clot.


EvanDouglas said...

Varicose veins are treated with lifestyle changes and medical procedures. The goals of treatment are to relieve symptoms, prevent complications and improve the appearance.


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