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How Are Restless Leg Syndrome and Venous Insufficiency Connected?

December 5, 2022

restless womanRestless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that affects the legs, causing an irresistible urge to move them. Research has shown that there may be a connection between RLS and venous insufficiency. 

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?  

RLS is a condition characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, often accompanied by a tingling or burning sensation that makes it difficult to remain still.  

Though RLS can occur at any time, it is most common at night, making it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. In severe cases, RLS can interfere with daily activities and lead to depression and anxiety.  

If you think you may have RLS, talk to your doctor about treatment options.  

What is Venous Insufficiency?  

Recent studies have found that many people with RLS also suffer from venous insufficiency. According to a study by The National Sleep Foundation, it was found that 98% of patients who received vein treatment noticed a reduction in restless leg syndrome symptoms.  

Venous insufficiency occurs when there’s poor circulation in vein walls resulting in inefficient flow back towards the heart leading to pooling blood vessels becoming enlarged (varicose veins).  

Varicose veins can cause venous insufficiency that can be tied to restless leg syndrome in some cases. Varicose veins occur when blood pools in veins instead of flowing back up into deeper veins towards the heart; this causes them to become enlarged and twisted, which can be painful and uncomfortable.  

Symptoms associated with venous insufficiency include: 

  • Swelling in lower extremities such as ankles & feet 
  • Pain/aching sensation while standing/sitting too long 
  • Heaviness/tiredness after physical activity 
  • Discoloration within skin near ankle area 
  • General fatigue 
  • Cramps & spasms
  • Itching/burning sensation on lower extremities 

 At-home treatment for varicose veins includes exercise, wearing compression socks during long periods of standing or sitting, elevating your legs when possible, and avoiding tight clothing around your waist or thighs which can constrict circulation. 

When these options are unsuccessful, medical intervention is often necessary. At Well Life Family Medicine, we offer a range of treatment options for venous insufficiency: 

  • Sclerotherapy
    Using ultrasound guidance, we locate the diseased vein and inject a drug to make it collapse. This treatment is often used for spider veins as the shrinking agent will disperse among the network of affected vessels. 
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
    This technique uses radiofrequency waves to deliver targeted energy to the affected vein. As a result, the vein wall shrinks and collapses, closing the vein and sending blood toward healthy veins. The procedure is simple and efficient, allowing patients to recover quickly. 
  • Phlebectomy
    In this procedure, local anesthesia is applied to the area. Then, we insert a tiny needle and hook to extract the damaged vein. Afterward, the patient wears a compression wrap and can resume basic physical activity. 
  • Varithena
    Varithena is a new, minimally invasive method for treating varicose veins. It injects microfoam into the affected area with just 1-2 needle sticks. This substance fills the damaged vein and heals the wall while redirecting blood to healthier veins. This allows bulging veins to shrink while healthy veins can remove the pooled blood.
    The procedure takes less than an hour and is painless for most patients. This means less downtime and fewer risks than surgical vein stripping or other methods. While Varithena is not recommended for people with blood clots, it presents an exciting new treatment option for varicose veins. 

 It is important to see a doctor if you think you might have RLS, so an underlying cause can be ruled out and treated if necessary. In many cases, RLS is caused by venous insufficiency and can improve with treatment of the veins. If you are experiencing symptoms of RLS, contact us today for a consultation. 

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