Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a common condition, affecting 2-4 percent of the adult population. Although its cause is not completely known, there may be an association between RLS and chronic venous insufficiency.
Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that can interrupt sleep and cause general discomfort in the form of unpleasant sensations in the legs. While it is a common condition, little is known about what causes it.
Certain medical conditions and drugs can produce symptoms that mimic RLS, and other conditions may coexist with RLS, as well. Chronic venous insufficiency, or vein disease, is believed to be one possible cause of RLS. No simple blood test or diagnostic tool can diagnose RLS, but there are a series of common symptoms that can help us recognize the condition.
Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms and Treatments
While the nuances of the sensations vary, those with RLS find there are common symptoms between cases. If you experience any or all of the following symptoms, you may be suffering from RLS.
- You have an irresistible urge to move your legs, often with associated leg discomfort and unpleasant sensations in the legs. These sensations are often described as “creepy-crawly,” an “electric current,” tingling, burning, or “nervous legs.”
- These unpleasant leg movements and sensations occur during periods of rest or inactivity (while lying down or sitting).
- Moving or stretching you partially or entirely completely relieve these unpleasant sensations. Once this activity ceases, symptoms often reoccur.
- Symptoms worsen during the evenings or at night (or occur only during nighttime hours).
At home, or with the guidance of a homeopathic practitioner, you can relieve some RLS discomfort with:
- Massage, stretching, or exercise
- Electrical stimulation (like with a TENS unit)
- Vibration therapy
- Pneumatic compression devices
- Light therapy
If diagnosed with RLS, a doctor may prescribe medical interventions such as:
- Iron supplementation
- Agents that act on the nervous system, such as carbidopa/levodopa, dopamine agonists, and Gabapentin
Restless leg syndrome and venous insufficiency studies over the last several years have identified an association between RLS and chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), or vein disease. Patients with CVI will often have:
- Varicose veins
- Leg and/or ankle swelling
- Leg pain
- Leg fatigue or heaviness
- Skin changes, particularly of the ankles or lower legs
CVI is diagnosed with an ultrasound examination of the legs. Patients with CVI will be found to have abnormal findings of venous blood flow. In many cases, these abnormalities can be treated with in-office procedures that can eliminate abnormal blood flow.
Treating venous insufficiency will often relieve the symptoms of restless legs syndrome
Some who are diagnosed with CVI will also display symptoms consistent with RLS. In these cases, treating the underlying CVI will eliminate the restless legs symptoms. Several different office-based treatment modalities are available to treat venous insufficiency. Treatment is covered by most insurances.
Physicians at Center for Vein Restoration specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of chronic venous insufficiency. If you suffer from varicose veins, leg swelling, heaviness, or fatigue, you may have underlying CVI. If you also have symptoms consistent with RLS, treating the venous also alleviates those symptoms as well.
If you are experiencing any of the uncomfortable symptoms of restless leg syndrome, you can schedule a consultation online or speak to a live Center for Vein Restoration Patient Services Representative by calling 1-800-FIX-LEGS.
Author: Lawrence Starin, MD, FACS
Lead Physician at Center for Vein Restoration in Washington, DC.
Dr. Starin is board certified by the American Board of Surgery and a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He has consistently been honored by his peers by receiving “Top Doc” recognition in the Washingtonian and CheckBook magazines.