Phleboliths: What Causes Them and How Are They Treated?

Medically reviewed by Alana Biggers, MD on September 14, 2017Written by James Roland on September 14, 2017

What are phleboliths?

Phleboliths are small blood clots in a vein that harden over time due to calcification. They’re often found in the lower part of your pelvis and usually don’t cause any symptoms or other health problems.

Phleboliths, also called vein stones, tend to be oval-shaped and less than 5 millimeters in diameter. They’re also relatively common, especially in people over 40.

How do I know if I have phleboliths?

Depending on the size, location, and number of phleboliths you have, you may never notice any symptoms. Sometimes they can cause pain in the stomach or pelvis. If the pain is very sharp, you may have kidney stones instead of phleboliths.

Varicose veins, which are enlarged veins overfilled with blood, can be a symptom of phleboliths. They’re usually visible under the skin and have a red or bluish-purple color. Varicose veins are often painful.

Another common symptom of phleboliths is ongoing constipation.

What causes phleboliths?

If pressure builds up in a vein for any reason, a phlebolith can form. This makes varicose veins not just a symptom, but also a cause of phleboliths.

Constipation can also be both a symptom and a cause of phleboliths. Even just straining to go to the bathroom can cause them.

Studies suggest that old age and pregnancy may also increase your risk of getting phleboliths.

How are they diagnosed?

Your doctor will likely use an X-ray or MRI scan to see if you have phleboliths. An ultrasound may also show phleboliths if they’re near the surface of the skin.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell phleboliths apart from other small calcifications, such as kidney stones or ureteral stones. A ureteral stone is a type of kidney stone that travels through the ureters, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder. Ureteral stones tend to appear near the lower back part of the hip bone.

How can I get rid of phleboliths?

Phleboliths that aren’t causing any symptoms don’t need treatment. But if you’re experiencing pain or other symptoms, your doctor can look into treatment options.

Medical treatment

One treatment option is sclerotherapy. It’s typically used on varicose veins. It involves the injection of a salt solution into the vein with the phleboliths. The salty liquid irritates the inner lining of the vein, causing it to collapse and close.

Sometimes sclerotherapy is combined with a treatment called endovenous laser therapy. This involves using a laser fiber attached to a needle or catheter to close the vein.

If those treatments don’t work, you may need surgery to remove the phlebolith. This is usually done only if you’re still having symptoms after trying other treatment options.

Home remedies

For minor cases of phleboliths, place a warm, wet washcloth over the area in pain. You may need to do this a few times a day to find relief.

Anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen (Advil), may also ease your pain. If your pain doesn’t go away, see you doctor.

How can I prevent phleboliths?

Because a phlebolith starts as a blood clot, you may be more likely to have other clots form in your blood vessels. Talk to your doctor about whether taking daily aspirin would be a safe and effective way to prevent future blood clots that may become phleboliths.

You can also lower your risk with daily exercise. Take a 30-minute walk or other activities that get you moving.

While exercising, remember to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water can raise your blood pressure. High blood pressure can take its toll on your veins and eventually lead to more phleboliths.

Try to avoid wearing tight clothing, especially below the waist. Tight clothing can put additional pressure on your veins.

What’s the outlook?

Phleboliths are a common part of aging and may never cause any trouble. However, any problem with your circulatory system should be taken seriously.

If you receive a diagnosis of phleboliths, you can still play sports and safely participate in most activities. Just have some imaging done so you and your doctor understand what’s at stake.

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