Superficial Thrombophlebitis: Care Instructions

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Your Care Instructions

Superficial thrombophlebitis is inflammation in a vein where a blood clot has formed close to the surface of the skin. You may be able to feel the clot as a firm lump under the skin. The skin over the clot can become red, tender, and warm to the touch. Blood clots in veins close to the skin's surface usually are not serious and often can be treated at home.

Sometimes superficial thrombophlebitis spreads to a deeper vein (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT). These deeper clots can be serious, even life-threatening. It is very important that you follow your doctor's instructions, keep all follow-up appointments, and watch for new or worsening symptoms of a clot.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

  • Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think you are having a problem with your medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Prop up the sore leg or arm on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down. Try to keep it above the level of your heart.

To prevent thrombophlebitis

  • Exercise. Keep blood moving in your legs to keep new clots from forming.
  • Get up out of bed as soon as possible after an illness or surgery.
  • Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good.
  • Ask your doctor about compression stockings. These may help prevent blood clots from forming in your legs. You can buy these with a prescription at medical supply stores and some drugstores.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You have sudden chest pain and shortness of breath, or you cough up blood.
  • You vomit blood or what looks like coffee grounds.
  • You pass maroon or very bloody stools.
  • You passed out (lost consciousness).

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have signs of a blood clot, such as:
    • Pain in your calf, back of the knee, thigh, or groin.
    • Redness and swelling in your leg or groin.
  • You notice a new hard, red, or tender area in your leg.
  • Your stools are black and tar-like or have streaks of blood.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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