Vein inflammation, medical term is phlebitis; mainly affects the veins of the lower extremities. Veins are blood vessels that provide the transport of deoxygenated blood from the body to the right side of the heart and then to the lungs. Phlebitis is usually accompanied by other diseases such as varicose veins or blood clots adhering to the venous wall, thrombosis.
Causes of vein inflammation
Phlebitis arises on the basis of slow blood flow in the veins, in the presence of varicose veins, thrombi, i.e. blood clots, or when purulent inflammation penetrates in to the surrounding veins. There are several causes, in principle, we distinguish between an infectious and non-infectious form. Usually the causes are non-infectious when inflammation occurs as a reaction to a blood clot, which is formed in the damaged veins. In varicose veins it is not only a damaged blood vessel wall, which is one of the factors leading to blood clot formation, but blood in them also flows more slowly, which is an ideal condition for blood clotting. Phlebitis may also be one of the symptoms of cancer or an immune disease. In addition, non-infectious causes of vein inflammation are adverse reactions to the introduction of a cannula or catheter into a vein, which is then irritated either mechanically or by the substances that are served in to the vein. Inflammation of the veins can also be caused by injury. Infectious causes may arise by contamination by microorganisms, for example, by incorrect handling of needles or catheters, where the instruments are not sterile anymore.
Symptoms of vein inflammation
Symptoms of phlebitis include pain, the skin over the affected vein is reddish, hardened and follows the affected vein. Great pain is evident during palpation or compression. Rarely fever may be present. In some cases, but they are apparently rare, a blood clot from the superficial veins may get to the deep veins, and travel through the heart in to the lungs, where it can cause so-called pulmonary embolism. This is manifested by a biting pain in the chest, shortness of breath, increased breathing and heart rate, pallor, sweating and often loss of consciousness. Pulmonary embolism is a life threatening condition that must be immediately addressed.
Diagnosis of vein inflammation
Diagnosis of phlebitis results in a careful anamnesis, where we ask about overcome thrombosis or varicose veins. Furthermore, we are interested in the incidence of these diseases in the family history. It is advisable to find out information about overcome surgical procedures, heart diseases, smoking and in women as well the use of hormonal contraception. All these factors may contribute to the disease, where phlebitis is the secondary outcome. Furthermore, the diagnosis results from clinical symptoms. If there is some uncertainty, it is possible to use ultrasound, to clarify the presence of phlebitis.
Treatment of vein inflammation
Treatment of phlebitis is primarily conservative. Effective are ointments with anti-inflammatory effect and pain-killers affecting the special properties of the venous wall. These are commonly known as vasoprotectives. Of course special limb compression bandages or compression stockings are used. As already mentioned, vein inflammation may be also caused by infections, so sometimes antibiotic administration is needed. Sometimes simultaneously a blood clot is present in the deep veins of the legs, so it is appropriate to assess this matter by ultrasound and start treatment using anticoagulants.
Prevention of vein inflammation
By prevention we understand measures to prevent a disease. To avoid vein inflammation it is mainly recommended to maintain a reasonable body weight, regular exercise and avoid smoking. It is also recommended during longer travel to take breaks and, if possible, a shorter walk. This also applies to patients in bed; they should mobilize as soon as possible. It is also advisable to avoid prolonged standing.