Risk factors

The cause of thrombophlebitis is a blood clot. Blood clots can result from many different things — namely anything that causes your blood not to circulate properly. Your risk of thrombophlebitis increases if you:

  • Are inactive for a long period of time, such as from sitting in a car or an airplane
  • Are confined to bed for a prolonged time, such as after surgery, a heart attack or a leg fracture
  • Have a type of cancer, such as pancreatic cancer, that may cause an increase of procoagulants — substances necessary for blood clotting (coagulation) — in your blood
  • Have had a stroke that resulted in paralysis of your arms or legs
  • Have a pacemaker or have a thin, flexible tube (catheter) in a central vein, for treatment of a medical condition, which may irritate the blood vessel wall and decrease blood flow
  • Are pregnant or have just given birth, which may mean you have increased pressure in the veins of your pelvis and legs
  • Use oral contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy, which may increase the clotting factors in your blood
  • Have a family history of a blood-clotting disorder or a tendency of blood clots
  • Are overweight or obese
  • Have varicose veins — clots may develop in dilated superficial veins (varicose veins), causing superficial thrombophlebitis
  • Are a smoker

The more risk factors you have, the higher your risk of thrombophlebitis. If you have one or more risk factors, be sure to discuss prevention strategies with your doctor before long periods of inactivity, such as a long flight, a long car ride or after an elective surgery.

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