A swollen vein and the throbbing pain and irritation that follow aren’t going to be pleasant. But if phlebitis is making you downright miserable, you need to set things right pronto. After all, this inflammation of a vein, also called thrombophlebitis when caused by a blood clot, can affect your mobility and everyday activities. But beyond the discomfort, phlebitis needs attention because of the fatal implications it sometimes has.
Localized trauma from a needle or IV, long periods of inactivity, and even complications from surgery can cause phlebitis. Thrombophlebitis is fairly common in people with varicose veins. It also occurs in people who have sluggish blood circulation in the legs – for instance, pregnant women or those immobilized by conditions like stroke.
While superficial phlebitis affects surface veins and is not usually harmful, phlebitis of deeper veins may even cause blood clots to travel to the lungs with life-threatening consequences.
Because of the possibility of such complications, your first line of treatment if you suspect phlebitis will have to start at the doctor’s. This is to gauge the extent of the inflammation. If it is severe, your doctor may prescribe blood-thinning medication to stop blood clots from going into deeper veins and the bloodstream. Anti-inflammatory painkillers and creams are usually used to reduce swelling and pain due to phlebitis.1 2
Once serious implications are ruled out, some simple home remedies can help get you back on track. And the good news is that phlebitis can be treated once caught early and further episodes even prevented. Here’s what you can do to tackle the symptoms at home.
1. Use Compression Stockings
Phlebitis usually develops on your lower legs, but surface veins on the penis, arms, or breast may also be affected. Look out for pain, swelling, and itching in the affected area. It may also be warm to the touch and may cause a fever.
Compression stockings are designed to help maintain blood flow and reduce swelling and discomfort. They’re typically worn through the day and taken off at night. Using compression stockings may help you tackle sluggish blood flow and reduce swelling if you have phlebitis. Have a word with your doctor to find out how long you need to wear them.34
2. Apply A Warm Water Compress
Intravenous medicinal therapy may also lead to phlebitis if the veins are irritated.
Applying a warm water compress is an easy way of reducing swelling. One study found that patients who develop phlebitis due to intravenous fluid therapy responded well to warm water compresses. The researchers suggested this was an inexpensive and effective treatment to tackle phlebitis. Incidentally, phlebitis is a common effect of intravenous fluid therapy.
To prepare a compress, soak a clean washcloth in warm water and wring out the excess moisture. Apply this to the affected area for 10–20 minutes. Covering the compress with plastic wrap can preserve the heat for longer. You’ll need to do this 3–4 times a day.5 6
3. Keep The Area Elevated And Pressure Free
Avoiding standing for long periods and keeping your legs raised when you sit can help prevent thrombophlebitis. Regular exercise, particularly walking, may also improve blood circulation, especially in people with varicose veins.7
If you have inflammation in your veins, keeping the area elevated can help reduce the swelling. Not applying pressure to the area is also a good idea as it can ease pain as well as bring down the chances of further damage.
4. Apply Aloe Vera
Thrombophlebitis that occurs during pregnancy usually doesn’t return after delivery.
Applying anti-inflammatory aloe vera has been found to speed up the resolution of symptoms such as redness, swelling, and pain in people with phlebitis due to intravenous therapy. Components like glucomannan, gibberellin, and salicylic acid in aloe vera may be responsible for its beneficial effect.8
Simply crack open an aloe vera leaf, scoop out the gel inside, and apply it to the affected area for relief. Rinse in 20 minutes, doing this twice every day.9
5. Dab On Diluted Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Fragrant lemon eucalyptus oil also works against inflammatory conditions such as phlebitis. Experts suggest that mixing 10 drops of this essential oil in a teaspoon of sunflower oil or other carrier oil and applying this to the affected area can be beneficial. You can also mix 15 to 20 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil in a teaspoon of milk, add that to your bathwater, and settle in for a relaxing soak.10
6. Have Garlic And Onion
Onion and garlic have sulfur-containing compounds such as paraffinic polysulfides, adenosine, and allicin which work as blood thinners. These compounds can prevent blood platelets from clumping together to form blood clots.11 So adding these flavor boosters to your diet may help prevent blood clots that lead to inflammation in your veins.
Do keep in mind though these are not meant to substitute blood-thinning medications prescribed by your doctor. You cannot stop any prescribed medication without your doctor’s go ahead and should keep them informed if you’re having foods with a blood-thinning effect in addition to blood-thinning medication.
7. Drink Pineapple Juice
Pineapples contain a group of enzymes known as bromelain. Research indicates that this important component can be beneficial in the treatment as well as prevention of thrombophlebitis. Bromelain has been found to be effective at easing swelling and inflammation. It also has a blood-thinning effect as it can reduce the tendency of blood platelets to stick together.12 13 So sip on some delicious pineapple juice to ease your inflamed veins and get a host of other health benefits as well. You could also check with your doctor about bromelain supplements.
8. Take Ginger
Ginger is another widely available ingredient with both anti-inflammatory and blood-thinning effects.14 One study increased the stickiness of blood and its tendency to form blood clots in healthy men by adding 100 grams of butter to their diet for a week. But when 5 grams of ginger was added to the high-fat meal, it had a blood-thinning effect and the tendency of blood platelets to clump together was significantly inhibited.15 So adding this spice to your cooking doesn’t just amp up the yum factor, it’ll also keep blood clots which can lead to inflammation in your veins at bay.
|↑1||Phlebitis (superficial thrombophlebitis). National Health Service.|
|↑2, ↑3, ↑7||Superficial Thrombophlebitis. Harvard Health Publications.|
|↑4||How long should I wear compression stockings to improve my circulation? National Health Service.|
|↑5||Annisa, Fitri, Nani Nurhaeni, and Dessie Wanda. “Warm Water Compress as an Alternative for Decreasing the Degree of Phlebitis.” Comprehensive child and adolescent nursing 40, no. sup1 (2017): 107-113.|
|↑6||INSTRUCTION SHEET: SUPERFICIAL THROMBOPHLEBITIS. University of North Carolina Wilmington Abrons Student Health Center.|
|↑8||Surjushe, Amar, Resham Vasani, and D. G. Saple. “Aloe vera: a short review.” Indian journal of dermatology 53, no. 4 (2008): 163.|
|↑9||Zheng, Guo Hua, and Chu JF LIU Y. “Aloe vera for prevention and treatment of infusion phlebitis.” The Cochrane Library (2011).|
|↑10||Vasey, Christopher. Natural Remedies for Inflammation. Simon and Schuster, 2014.|
|↑11||Makheja, A. N., and J. M. Bailey. “Antiplatelet constituents of garlic and onion.” Agents and actions 29, no. 3-4 (1990): 360-363.|
|↑12||Bruno, Gene, RH AHG, and Art Presser. “Herbal COX-2 Inhibitors: A Natural Alternative.” Retail Train (2005): 24-25.|
|↑13||Tochi, Bitange Nipa, Zhang Wang, Shi-Ying Xu, and Wenbin Zhang. “Therapeutic application of pineapple protease (bromelain): a review.” Pakistan journal of nutrition 7, no. 4 (2008): 513-520.|
|↑14||Thomson, M., K. K. Al-Qattan, S. M. Al-Sawan, M. A. Alnaqeeb, I. Khan, and M. Ali. “The use of ginger (Zingiber officinale Rosc.) as a potential anti-inflammatory and antithrombotic agent.” Prostaglandins, leukotrienes and essential fatty acids 67, no. 6 (2002): 475-478.|
|↑15||Verma, S. K., J. Singh, R. Khamesra, and A. Bordia. “Effect of ginger on platelet aggregation in man.” The Indian journal of medical research 98 (1993): 240-242.|