home / health / phlebitis or varicose veins? what’s the difference?

Phlebitis or varicose veins? What’s the difference?

As we age, some things are inevitable. Things get a little slower, a little looser, and little more challenging. And one particular area that may take a toll as we age is our cardiovascular system…

Some changes in the heart and blood vessels normally occur with age, while others are modifiable through lifestyle interventions. Structural changes such as vascular stiffening and mechanisms responsible for injury repair become increasingly defective with age.


Phlebitis and varicose veins are two examples of venous dysfunction that can occur in the later decades of life. Phlebitis means inflammation of a vein and is caused by injury to the vein. Thrombophlebitis, a type of phlebitis, is inflammation of the vein caused by a blot clot, which can lead to more serious complications.

If you are elderly, female, lead a sedentary lifestyle, smoke, or have diabetes, your risk of developing phlebitis increases. Interestingly, having varicose veins also increases your risk of developing phlebitis.

And varicose veins

Varicose veins, a term referring to veins that have become enlarged and twisted, appear as blue bulging blood vessels most commonly in the legs. As we age, veins lose their elasticity and stretch, leading to weaker vein valves that sometimes allow blood to move backward, instead of toward the heart.

Varicose veins can lead to phlebitis when the stretching of the vein wall jeopardizes the integrity of the inside lining and lends to swelling and inflammation. Similarly, the poor integrity of varicose veins can predispose these veins to thrombophlebitis, or a tender hard knot within the vein wall.

Lifestyle and diet interventions

While some aspects of our cardiovascular health are out of our control, the majority of risk factors can be controlled, treated, or modified. Below are some lifestyle and diet interventions that can impact the health of your veins and heart:

  • Eat right. Try choosing anti-inflammatory foods that also promote blood flow. These foods include high-fibre foods, foods high in anti-oxidants such as berries and pecans, magnesium-rich foods like spinach and almonds, and spices that encourage circulatory stimulation such as cayenne.
  • Exercise. Some believe that running causes varicose veins, but exercise is actually good for our blood vessels, especially exercises that involve leg raises which forces blood toward the heart. Regular exercise also keeps our weight in check and helps tackle obesity – a risk factor for both phlebitis and varicose veins.
  • Take breaks. If you work at a desk or your job requires long periods of standing, ensure to take breaks that promote blood movement through the legs. Stretching and moving the joints through their normal ranges of motion can help promote better blood flow.
  • Let nature heal you. The herb Aesculus hippocastanum, otherwise known as Horse Chestnut, has been found to be as effective as compression stockings for poor blood flow in leg veins. If you suffer from varicose veins, considering trying Circulation Support for Legs to support your veins.
  • Protect your lungs. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, as well as varicose veins and thrombophlebitis. Ditching the cigarettes will protect your lungs and your cardiovascular system. 

If you suffer from varicose veins, phlebitis, or thrombophlebitis, it is imperative to work with your primary healthcare provider to ensure you are maintaining optimal health.