If RLS is keeping you up at night, it could be due to varicose veins.
If you suffer from both restless leg syndrome (RLS) and varicose veins, you’re not alone; several scientific studies have documented a link between the two conditions. A 2007 paper published in the journal Phlebology which analyzed patients with RLS found that a majority also had chronic venous disorders (CVD), concluding, “RLS appears to be a common overlapping clinical syndrome in patients with CVD.”
Because the two conditions are so closely connected, it’s natural to wonder whether it’s possible to kill two birds with one stone by treating both with one procedure. However, knowing whether that’s possible requires knowing the underlying cause of your RLS.
What is RLS?
Affecting roughly 10% of people in the US, RLS is characterized by involuntary leg twitches when a person rests. Moving the limbs provides some measure of comfort; however, the constant jolts leaves sufferers sleep deprived and exhausted. The syndrome strikes more women than men.
The probable underlying causes of RLS range from iron deficiency and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease to diabetes and kidney failure. Certain drugs, including antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-nausea medications, may also contribute to RLS. Heredity plays a role, too, as researchers have found the disorder runs in families.
Depending upon the diagnosis, RLS may be treated with anticonvulsants or dopamine-regulating drugs similar to the ones used for Parkinson’s disease. The Food & Drug Administration has approved a number of therapeutic agents for moderate to severe RLS.
RLS sufferers may also find relief with at-home remedies such as taking hot baths, applying ice and heat on the limbs, and increasing iron intake. Reducing alcohol and caffeine consumption also eases RLS symptoms. However, in the case that RLS does stem from venous insufficiency, then that condition must be addressed.
The Similarities Between RLS and Varicose Veins
The symptoms of RLS and varicose veins, as the 2008 study noted, overlap. People with varicose veins due to malfunctioning valves also have legs that itch, throb, swell, and feel heavy at times — all of which, like RLS, can disrupt sleep. Yet because the bulging blue lines of varicose veins or spider veins may not surface to the upper layer of skin, people may not see the visible evidence of varicose veins. Therefore, they may not make the connection between venous insufficiency and RLS.
To find the source of RLS in a patient, a doctor will take a complete medical history, do a blood test, review current health status and medications, and order other diagnostic assessments. Finally, an ultrasound exam performed by a vein specialist can uncover any hidden varicose veins.
Will Varicose Vein Treatments Cure RLS?
Medical researchers have reviewed whether varicose vein treatment can manage RLS. A 1995 study found that sclerotherapy — a procedure that injects a sclerosant into the vein to collapse the damaged vein — eliminated the discomfort of RLS in 98% of patients.
A study also published in Phlebology in 2008 mirrored those results. After undergoing laser and ultrasound-guided sclerotherapy, more than 90% of RLS patients with underlying venous insufficiency reported significant improvement in RLS symptoms.
Although these studies indicate varicose vein therapy stands a high chance of alleviating RLS symptoms, successful treatment depends on whether venous insufficiency is the true cause of the syndrome. To pinpoint the root of RLS, patients require a comprehensive medical checkup from a physician and a vein specialist.
You can consult with one of the vein specialists at the Center for Vein Restoration to identify if varicose veins are causing your RLS. We have extensive knowledge of venous disorders and an array of diagnostic options to find if varicose vein treatment will make you sleep better.