Could your varicose veins be causing your restless legs syndrome? Several studies say there is a connection between the two conditions.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) keeps between 7% to 10% of the U.S. population wide awake each night. The frustrating condition causes involuntary jerks and “crawling” sensations in the lower limbs; in an attempt to relieve these bothersome symptoms, RLS patients toss and turn. This constant movement disrupts sleep, and leaves patients feeling fatigued during the day.
Unfortunately, finding a definitive cure for RLS may be difficult. The disorder has been traced to several ailments: iron deficiency, kidney disease, and a lack of dopamine in the basal ganglia area of the brain are all considered factors. Anti-nausea, antipsychotic, and antidepressant medication have been implicated in the development of RLS, as well. Yet, in many cases, doctors are unable to pinpoint a medical reason for RLS, which may lead to patients being given medications they don’t need, and that don’t actually treat the disorder.
It’s possible that many misdiagnoses could be avoided if another possible cause of RLS is considered: varicose veins. Several scientific studies have noted a link between RLS and venous insufficiency, and further concluded that treating varicose veins combats the symptoms of RLS.
Research as far back as 1995 documents the connection between RLS and varicose veins. In a study published in Dermatological Surgery, more than 1,300 patients were screened for RLS and venous insufficiency. Of the 113 patients with RLS treated for venous insufficiency with sclerotherapy (an injection of a substance into the varicose vein to collapse it), 98% reported relief from RLS symptoms.
Similarly, a 2007 study published in the journal Phlebology determined nearly all of the 63 people diagnosed with RLS also had chronic venous insufficiency. This finding led researchers to conclude vein disorders like varicose veins are present in many RLS patients.
In 2008, a study published in Phlebology confirmed patients with RLS and venous insufficiency benefited from endovenous laser ablation . (Similar to sclerotherapy, endovenous laser ablation uses a laser to collapse the damaged vein.) After undergoing this procedure, patients said their RLS symptoms had diminished.
Given these conclusions, people experiencing RLS should be evaluated for varicose veins, a condition in which the valve in the leg vein fails to pump blood back to the heart. This reflux of blood builds up in the vein, causing it to bulge out from under the skin in a tangle of blue or purple varicose veins.
Many of the symptoms of varicose veins mimic RLS, further indicating a link between the two conditions. Cramps, swelling, achiness, and throbbing in the legs may prevent varicose vein patients from a restful night, just as RLS would. What’s more, varicose veins may be hidden deep in the leg veins and therefore not be visible to sufferers even when they experience symptoms. They may think they have RLS, but the underlying cause is varicose veins.
If you’re living with RLS, a thorough examination of your veins could uncover whether the cause is venous insufficiency. The doctors at Vascular & Interventional Associates Vein Center use state-of-the-art technology to diagnose and treat varicose veins. We can recommend conservative treatment methods or minimally invasive surgical procedures. Our goal is to make sure you’re comfortable with whatever option you choose. Call today for a vein screening so you can sleep better tomorrow.