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Vein Irritation or Inflammation (phlebitis)

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Last updated November 24, 2021

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What is phlebitis?

Phlebitis means an inflammation of the veins that are close to the surface of the skin. Little blood clots can form in these superficial veins and cause the vein to get inflamed. This often happens in people that have a condition called “venous insufficiency” (most commonly recognized by varicose, twisted or swollen veins).

It also commonly occurs in people that have or had an intravenous catheter ('IV' drip). Cancer patients and people receiving chemotherapy are more prone to get phlebitis.


  • Pain
  • Tenderness
  • Redness or swelling along the length of a vein


Contact your doctor to discuss your symptoms. Phlebitis and the forming of blood clots in superficial veins can potentially lead to blood clots in the deeper veins causing deep vein thrombosis. If you have any swelling in the arm or leg, see a doctor immediately.

Your doctor can decide whether you need further testing.

A simple phlebitis is treated by easing the symptoms. This can be done by using heating or cooling pads, taking an over-the-counter pain killer, and raising the affected arm or leg.

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