What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move one's legs to relieve uncomfortable sensations. RLS can occur at any time, but it is most commonly experienced at night. It affects an estimated 5 to 10 percent of adults and 2 to 4 percent of children in the United States and approximately 15% of the population worldwide.
There are two types of restless leg syndrome: primary and secondary. Primary RLS is more common and tends to run in families. While Secondary RLS is related to environmental factors and other diseases.
One of the most common symptoms of restless leg syndrome is the uncontrollable urge to move your legs, especially when you're trying to rest or sleep. This can cause significant disruption to your daily routine and make it difficult to get a good night's sleep.
Other common symptoms include:
- Aching or pain in the legs
- Cramping in the legs
- An intense feeling of "creepy-crawly" skin sensations
- Burning or numbness in the legs
- Anxiety or depression
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating
- Sleep problems (insomnia)
- Sleep deprivation
What is the underlying cause of restless leg syndrome?
There is much debate surrounding the underlying cause of restless leg syndrome (RLS), with many doctors and researchers believing that there is not just one single cause, but rather a combination of factors. These can include:
- Genetics/Family history: RLS appears to run in families, which suggests that genetics may play a role in its development.
- Iron deficiency: Iron is needed for the proper function of nerve cells. A lack of iron can lead to an imbalance in brain chemicals, which may contribute to RLS symptoms.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women are at increased risk for developing RLS. It is thought that the changes in hormone levels during pregnancy may play a role in the development of RLS symptoms.
- Kidney failure: Kidney disease can lead to anemia, which is a condition characterized by a lack of red blood cells. Anemia can cause RLS symptoms.
- Chronic venous disorders: Weak and damaged valves lead to varicose veins. Inside the veins of your lower legs, muscles contract and act as pumps, helping blood flow back to your heart. This may cause symptoms of RLS.
In some cases, RLS has been linked to chronic venous insufficiency (CVS). CVS is a condition when the valves in the leg veins are not functioning properly and causes blood to pool in the legs and leading to the sensation of restless legs. Chronic venous insufficiency can cause varicose veins, blood clots, and venous ulcers.
What are the dangers of restless leg syndrome?
There are some dangers associated with restless leg syndrome (RLS). If left untreated, RLS can lead to interference with sleep. Loss of sleep or sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue and daytime sleepiness, which can impact work performance and quality of life. In addition, RLS can also increase the risk of accidents due to daytime drowsiness.
Finally, RLS may also increase the risk of developing other health problems, such as cardiovascular disease. This may be due to the fact that RLS is associated with high levels of stress hormones, which can damage the heart and blood vessels over time.
How to diagnose restless leg syndrome?
Seeking a clinical diagnosis from your doctor is the most common way to diagnose RLS, which involves your doctor reviewing your symptoms and discussing your medical history. They may also do a physical exam.
Another way to diagnose RLS is through a sleep study called polysomnography to help rule out other conditions. Finally, your doctor may also use blood tests to check for iron-deficiency anemia, which can cause RLS.
How Is RLS Treated?
Various treatments are available to treat restless leg syndrome. One option is medication. The most commonly prescribed medicines for RLS include Dopaminergic drugs that work by increasing dopamine levels in the brain. In addition, iron supplements are often recommended for people with RLS who have low iron levels. Anticonvulsants may also be used to treat RLS because they can help reduce nerve pain.
Lifestyle changes can also treat restless leg syndrome symptoms. Some lifestyle changes that can help reduce the symptoms of restless leg syndrome include exercise, stretching, massaging the legs, managing stress levels, and avoiding caffeine or alcohol.
In some cases, surgery may treat RLS. Surgery is typically only considered when other treatment options have failed. The most common type of surgery for RLS is called deep brain stimulation (DBS). DBS involves the implantation of a small device that delivers electrical stimulation to specific brain areas. This stimulation can help reduce RLS symptoms and improve sleep quality.
The connection between varicose veins and restless leg syndrome - What do scientists say?
People who suffer from varicose veins and restless leg syndrome often talk about the connection between these two conditions. However, these two conditions are often related, as both can be caused by superficial venous insufficiency or chronic venous insufficiency.
A 2007 study published in the journal Phlebology via Pubmed determined that nearly all 63 people diagnosed with RLS also had chronic venous disorders. This finding led researchers to conclude that vein disorders like varicose veins are present in many RLS patients.
Another study published in 2019 through the National library of medicine said that treating superficial venous insufficiency has been shown to reduce RLS symptoms and concluded that the two conditions are related.
Can treating varicose veins cure restless leg syndrome?
There is some speculation that treating varicose veins can cure restless leg syndrome, but there is no concrete evidence to support this claim. However, there is a varicose vein treatment that can help ease the restless leg symptoms.
One such treatment uses duplex ultrasound, which involves sound waves to create an image of the blood vessels to assess their condition. Ultrasound imaging can guide further treatment, such as Endovenous Laser Ablation or Sclerotherapy.
Another potential treatment option is the use of compression stockings. These are specialized stockings that help apply pressure to the legs, which can aid in reducing discomfort.
If you are experiencing restless leg syndrome, talk to your doctor about possible treatment options. In the meantime, try to maintain a healthy lifestyle and avoid activities that may trigger your restless leg symptoms. With proper treatment and self-care, you can manage your condition and enjoy a good quality of life.
Is restless leg syndrome related to blood clots?
Several studies suggest that RLS may be linked to blood clots. One small study found that nearly half of people with RLS also had evidence of blood clots in their legs. Another study found that people with RLS were more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis, a serious type of blood clot. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.
How do you relieve RLS symptoms fast?
If you're looking for immediate relief from RLS, you can try a few things. These simple techniques can help get significant improvement in your RLS symptoms quickly. For example, you can take a warm bath or shower, massage your legs, take medications prescribed by your doctor, and apply a heating pad to your legs for 15-30 minutes.
If you are one of the millions of people who suffer from both varicose veins and restless leg syndrome, it is important that you schedule an appointment with a vein specialist. We have outlined some treatments for varicose veins that may also help improve the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
Some studies have shown a connection between the two conditions, so it is important to get them both treated. Don’t wait any longer – get the relief you deserve by scheduling an appointment today.