Cephalic vein thrombosis, also known as vein thrombosis, phlebitis, and sometimes thrombophlebitis, causes vein inflammation brought on by a blood clot. Immobility or some illnesses raise the risk of developing a blood clot. Besides inflammation, cephalic vein thrombosis leads to several painful and uncomfortable symptoms in the affected limbs. Treatment may range from self-care to medications to surgery, and increased mobility helps to prevent symptoms.
Illness and long periods of inactivity often increase the risk of developing a blood clot, which is the culprit of cephalic vein thrombosis. For instance, bedridden patients who have had surgery may be susceptible to developing clots. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, vein thrombosis has been linked to blood vessel injuries, as well as some cancers. Additionally, people who sit through long car or airplane trips may also risk developing blood clots because blood flow has been restricted throughout the body, specifically the arms and legs.
Two types of vein thrombosis exist, including superficial thrombophlebitis and deep vein thrombosis, or DVT. Blood clots that form near the vein often cause swelling in the extremities. Superficial thrombophlebitis results from a blood clot formed just below the skin's surface, while deep vein thrombosis penetrates a deeper vein in one leg or one arm.
Inflammation is the top warning sign, but the condition also causes several other physical symptoms. Pain in any vein area of the arm or leg should be closely examined by a doctor. With superficial thrombosis, additional symptoms may include the presence of a red, cord-shaped vein accompanied by swelling or tenderness. DVT often leads to generalized swelling in the arm or leg, followed by redness and warmth. The Mayo Clinic notes that serious cases of DVT show additional symptoms such as fever or shortness of breath, which require emergency attention as the blood clot may have traveled toward the lungs.
Upon diagnosis through a blood test, venography, and an ultrasound, a doctor usually prescribes medications or surgery, depending on the severity of cephalic vein thrombosis. Mild cases of vein thrombosis may be relieved by elevating the limb, applying heat to reduce inflammation, or wearing support stockings to avoid complications. NSAIDs or ibuprofen can be taken to reduce pain and swelling, while blood-thinning medications prevent existing blood clots from worsening and block new ones from forming. Surgery to remove a clot from the vein may be necessary if it interferes with circulation. Walking, stretching, and drinking plenty of water can help to prevent thrombophlebitis from occurring.