Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer
When former President Richard Nixon suffered a severe case of
phlebitis, it made newspaper headlines. The medical term for his
condition is thrombophlebitis: A blood clot forms in a vein of
the legs (usually)and the vein becomes inflamed. It is more
common in women than in men.
Superficial phlebitis affects the veins visible just beneath
the skin surface. People who have varicose veins are susceptible,
and the affected area will be red and swollen and feel warm,
hard, and tender to the touch. It can usually be treated at home.
Deep vein thrombophlebitis requires hospitilization and
treatment with blood thinning medication to prevent an embolism
from forming. If a blood clot breaks away from the wall of a vein
(forming an embolism), it can interfere with the circulation to
the limb, or cause death if it reaches the heart or lung. The
only symptom may be an aching pain in the limb, but half of those
with deep vein thrombophlebitis have no symptoms. It often
develops after prolonged bed rest, major surgery, pregnancy, or
use of birth control pills.
Other conditions that can lead to phlebitis of either kind
inactivity (from a sedentary job or prolonged trip by car or
Smoking or chewing
Trauma to the leg
(from a blow or fall)
Injury to the vein
(from injections or intravenous needles)
Only a doctor can distinguish the difference between the two.
If you're diagnosed as having superficial phlebitis, you'll
probably be told to:
affected limb and elevate it above the level of your heart until
the pain and
Apply moist heat
to the affected area for 20 minutes on and 20 minutes off.
Use aspirin or
nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen.
Avoid bed rest.
To prevent thrombophlebitis:
periods of uninterrupted sitting or standing.
Avoid taking birth
Never sit with
your legs crossed.
garters, knee-high hosiery, or other stockings that restrict
blood flow in the
fitting elastic stockings made to help blood flow.
If you're confined
to bed, try this: With your feet against a pillow, pretend you're
pressing on a
gas pedal and then
releasing it. Alternate with one foot, then the other.
Exercise your legs
at least every hour or two on long auto or airplane trips.