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Phlebitis Symptoms continued...

If an infection is present, symptoms may include redness, fever, pain, swelling, or breakdown of the skin.

Deep vein phlebitis

This can be similar in presentation to superficial phlebitis, but some people may have no symptoms.

One may have pain and swelling throughout the entire limb. For example, the lower leg may swell for no apparent reason. Some people also get fever from a superimposed bacterial infection and skin discoloration or ulcers if the condition becomes chronic and was inadequately treated earlier.

When to Seek Medical Care

Call your health care provider if you have signs and symptoms of swelling, pain, and inflamed superficial veins on the arms or legs. If you are not better in a week or two or if it gets any worse, get reevaluated to make sure you don't have a more serious condition.

Deep vein thrombophlebitis requires immediate medical care. If you have any of these signs and symptoms, go to a hospital emergency department for evaluation:

  • High fever with any symptoms in an arm or leg
  • Lumps in a leg
  • Severe pain and swelling in an arm or leg
  • New, unexplained significant shortness of breath, which could be the first tip-off that a blood clot has already traveled to your lung

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider will examine you and ask questions about your symptoms. 

D-dimer is a blood test that measures a substance that is released as a blood clot dissolves. If this blood test is negative, and you have no risk factors, then it is unlikely that you have a blood clot.

Ultrasound can detect clots or blockage of blood flow, especially in larger, more proximal (upper leg) veins. A small hand-held instrument (probe) is pressed against your skin to help identify blood clots and where the obstruction is. This is a painless, noninvasive test.

Occasionally a venogram is needed to identify blood clots in the smaller, more distal veins. This is an invasive procedure that requires injecting X-ray dye or contrast material into a vein on the foot, then an X-ray is taken of the flow of the dye up the leg.

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