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The Causes and Treatment of Phlebitis

Phlebitis is the name given to an inflammation of the veins, usually in the legs. It is almost always a complication of varicose veins - even if the person didn't know they had varicose veins!

Unfortunately, the term phlebitis is often used incorrectly for any inflammation in the legs. This can lead to the wrong treatment and so it is very important to understand exactly what phlebitis is, how it should be investigated and treated, and what other conditions are often mistakenly called "phlebitis".

What makes is even more important, is the latest research that shows that phlebitis in the legs can be associated with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) and so it is absolutely essential to have a duplex ultrasound scan as soon as phlebitis is suggested as a diagnosis.

Whereas in the past treatment was only aspirin and graduated pressure stockings, it is now recommended that certain people shown to be at risk on duplex ultrasound scan are treated with anticoagulation to reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE).

(Picture right ยป) Phlebitis in an area of visible varicose veins. This phlebitis has been present for a couple of weeks so the inflammation has settled and some post-inflammatory brown staining is appearing over the hard, lumpy veins.

(Picture below) Severe skin inflammation and small venous leg ulcer both due to venous incompetence and venous reflux ("hidden varicose veins"). This is NOT phlebitis

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