What is Postphlebitic Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Pamela Pleasant
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 10 October 2018
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Postphlebitic syndrome is a blood clot that develops in a leg vein. This is referred to as a thrombus. The blood clot can grow and become lodged in the vein, which can stop the vein from functioning properly. It can severely damage the vein as well as the vein valves. Postphlebitic syndrome can cause certain symptoms that make the condition easy to identify.

Severe swelling and pain are usually seen with this syndrome. Due to the lack of blood flow, rashes and ulcers can develop on the surface of the skin. Dryness of the skin and itching can also happen. When the veins are blocked, the blood flow can stop completely or start to flow backward. This is called a venous hypertension or chronic venous disease.

The veins in the legs have valves that control the blood flow. They are there to ensure that the blood does not flow backward and cause blood pooling. When postphlebitic syndrome is not diagnosed in a timely manner, the leg veins become enlarged and irreversible damage can develop. After a period of time, blood can leak from the veins, causing discoloration of the leg and ankle. This is called stasis dermatitis, and when this occurs, the pigment of the skin changes to a purple or brown color.


There is no known cure for postphlebitic syndrome, but there are ways to treat it. Keeping the effected leg elevated can help to slow down the blood flow and relieve pressure within the veins. This can also help to eliminate the swelling. Compression stockings can also be worn to relieve the pressure. Topical ointments can also be used on any skin breaks or ulcers.

Medications are also typically prescribed for postphlebitic syndrome. Aspirin and pain medication can be taken to relieve any discomfort. If any infection occurs due to skin irritation, antibiotics can be taken to lessen the chance of a bacterial infection. Edema or excessive swelling can be stopped by using certain kinds of diuretics. If none of these remedies are working for the patient, surgery can be done to correct the problem.

The elderly and people who are obese are at a higher risk for getting postphlebitic syndrome. Pregnancy, smoking, and taking oral estrogen can also increase the risk, as can certain types of kidney disorders. This condition can also be life threatening if the blood clot breaks free and moves into the lung or heart area.



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