Superficial phlebitis is typically treated by wearing compression stockings and taking anti-inflammatory medications, if the patient is otherwise healthy, according to WebMD. Patients are encouraged to elevate their leg or arm and apply warm compresses. If the patient appears to also have an infection, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics.
Prescription compression stockings help patients with superficial phlebitis by improving blood flow, WebMD reports. Compression stockings also help reduce swelling and pain. Patients can encourage healing by walking, which increases blood flow and keeps potentially serious blood clots from developing.
Superficial phlebitis patients can develop a more serious condition called thrombophlebitis, WebMD states. While superficial phlebitis is an inflammation of a vein near the skin, thrombophlebitis is a condition in which a blood clot in a deep vein is causing the inflammation. Large blood clots can travel to the lungs, resulting in a medical emergency.
Phlebitis is linked to a variety of causes, including leg injury, surgery and varicose veins, WebMD says. Other risk factors include obesity, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, pregnancy and taking birth control pills. The condition can also be caused by prolonged inactivity, such as long airplane flights or extended car trips. Phlebitis most commonly occurs in the legs, but it can form in arms as well.