Phlebitis (superficial thrombophlebitis)

Phlebitis is inflammation of a vein near the surface of the skin. It’s not usually serious and often gets better on its own after 1 or 2 weeks.

Phlebitis is also sometimes known as superficial thrombophlebitis or superficial vein thrombosis.

Check if you have phlebitis

Phlebitis usually affects the veins in the legs, but you can also get it in your arms or neck.

The main symptoms are:

Close-up of phlebitis on a person's leg. The skin is lumpy due to varicose veins and there are several red areas. Image shown is on white skin.
Phlebitis is common in people with varicose veins.

Urgent advice: Ask for an urgent GP appointment or get help from NHS 111 if you have:

  • throbbing or cramping pain in your leg, arm or neck
  • sudden swelling in your leg, arm or neck
  • warm skin around the painful area
  • red or darkened skin around the painful area
  • swollen veins that are hard or sore when you touch them

It’s important to get these symptoms checked in case it’s something more serious like deep vein thrombosis (a type of blood clot).

You can call 111 or get help from 111 online.

Treatments for phlebitis

Treatment for phlebitis may not be needed if your symptoms are mild.

But treatment may be recommended if your symptoms are severe or do not go away.

Treatments may include:

Things you can do to ease the symptoms of phlebitis

There are things you can do to help ease the pain and discomfort of phlebitis.


  • continue using the affected leg or arm

  • raise your leg or arm while resting

  • put a warm, moist flannel over the affected area

  • take paracetamol or ibuprofen – if you’ve been prescribed blood-thinning medicine, do not take ibuprofen unless advised to by your doctor

Causes of phlebitis

It's not always clear what causes phlebitis.

Often the inflammation is linked to:

Other things that can increase your chances of getting phlebitis include:

Page last reviewed: 20 December 2022
Next review due: 20 December 2025