Restless Leg Syndrome and Night Leg Cramps: A Sign of Vein Disease?

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. These conditions negatively affect our quality of life and severely disrupt how well we perform during our waking hours. Sleep movement disorders, including restless leg syndrome (RLS) and sleep or night leg cramps, are cited as two of the eighty most common causes of chronic sleep deprivation in the United States by the CDC.

For greater insight, we spoke to Evan W, Harris, MD, DVIR, DABVLM, RPVI, a double board-certified physician with Center for Vein for Restoration. He explained what these sleep disorders have in common, the potential causes for the conditions, and what can be done to treat them.

Restless Leg Syndrome

The uncomfortable sensations of restless leg syndrome, characterized by an overwhelming urge to move one’s legs, is considered a sleep disorder because it is often most severe at night while lying in bed, explains Dr. Harris. He goes on to say that “when associated with poor vein circulation or venous insufficiency, RLS often worsens throughout the day and into the late evening and early morning hours.”

Leg Cramps

We’ve all experienced it: a sudden, uncontrollable muscle cramp in your leg that wakes you in the middle of the night, requiring that you jump out of bed to try to calm the violently contracting muscles of your calf, thigh, or foot by using massage and stretching. Commonly known as a charley horse, these involuntary muscle spasms can be extremely painful.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome & Night Leg Cramps

According to Dr. Harris, “abnormal venous circulation in the legs can often result in venous insufficiency which can lead to restless legs and night cramps.” He clarifies that restless legs and night cramps “show an even greater association with varicose veins and venous insufficiency when symptoms of heaviness fatigue and aching are present.”

Regarding RLS, Dr. Harris clarifies that “usually the more standing or sitting one has done throughout the day, the worse these symptoms may become. Miraculously, it seems at first, when a person wakes the next day, the symptoms have significantly diminished or resolved. Sadly, however, like the movie ‘Groundhog Day,’ these annoying tingling or crawling sensations return in short order.”

Dr. Harris sympathizes with anyone suffering from a charley horse regularly, saying, “it is a miserable experience. Like restless legs, we may try to massage the leg or move or walk it off, but often the damage has already been done as our plan for a good night sleep has been ruined.

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome & Night Leg Cramps

According to Dr. Harris, the good news is that treatment is available. He recommends that a trained vascular specialist first diagnose anyone suffering from these conditions to determine if venous insufficiency is the root cause. “Even when not visible, abnormal functioning varicose veins, which can be responsible for these sleep disorders, can be identified using ultrasound technology.”

At the Center for Vein Restoration, this diagnosis can be made in as little as one hour using a simple ultrasound study, says Dr. Harris. He adds, “Together with your doctor; you can then evaluate treatment options which, in the appropriate patient, can lead to near-complete long-lasting symptom relief.

Dr. Harris concludes that “while for some a cure for these ailments may be elusive, I’m happy to note that the vascular specialists at Center for Vein Restoration quite often bring significant relief to patients by combining state of the art diagnostic ultrasound and minimally invasive office-based treatment techniques.”

Schedule a Diagnostic Ultrasound Today

Begin your journey to comfort and a good night’s sleep by scheduling an evaluation today. Call 1-800 FIX LEGS or visit us online at centerforvein.com.

Schedule an Evaluation Today

Author: Evan Harris, MD, DVIR, DABVLM, RPVI

Evan Harris, MD, RPVI is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New Jersey Medical School in Newark, New Jersey. He completed his internship and radiology training at New Jersey Medical School affiliate Hackensack University Medical Center. He then completed fellowship training at the University of South Florida and eventually became Associate Professor at the University of South Florida and Instructor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine where he served as Chairman of the Department of Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.


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