Phlebitis: Symptoms & Signs

  • Medical Author:
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Medically Reviewed on 5/30/2017

Phlebitis (inflammation of a vein) often occurs together with blood clot formation in the vein, known as thrombophlebitis. If phlebitis is mild, it may not produce any symptoms. When symptoms are present,

  • pain,
  • tenderness,
  • bulging of the vein,
  • warmth, and
  • redness of the skin are the common symptoms.

In some cases, fever may be present. Infections that cause phlebitis may lead to the drainage of pus from the involved site. Thrombi (clots) in thrombophlebitis can sometimes be felt in the form of hardened cords along the course of a vein. When thrombophlebitis occurs in the deep veins of the lower extremity, swelling of the leg as well as pain and tenderness can occur.

Causes of phlebitis

There are many causes of phlebitis. These include local trauma to a vein, long periods of inactivity or immobility, insertion of intravenous catheters (IV), varicose veins, underlying cancers or clotting disorders, burns, disruption of normal venous system drainage because of removal of lymph nodes, or intravenous drug use.


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/30/2017

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