Are restless legs keeping you awake at night? There may be a surprising cause: varicose veins. Restless leg syndrome can happen for a variety of different reasons, varying from iron deficiency to neuropathy. But an often-neglected factor to developing symptoms of restlessness in the legs is compromised vein health. Our team at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center, home to the best vascular surgeons in Orlando, have seen patients with restless legs improve drastically after treating their venous insufficiency. Let’s look a little closer at how they’re linked.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by uniquely uncomfortable, tingling feelings in the leg that create an irresistible need to move them to relieve that discomfort. Symptoms may diminish in the morning, only to grow more noticeable in the late afternoon and evening. The discomfort is usually at its worst at night, when you’re trying to sleep. This can heavily compromise your ability to sleep — and lack of sleep can impact your overall quality of life during the day. Sleepiness has a negative impact on your overall mood, ability to concentrate, job performance, and your relationships with friends and family.
Restless leg syndrome falls under the category of several different disorders. It’s most often characterized as a sleep disorder due to its prevalence at night impact on sleep quality. It is also thought of as a movement disorder due to the need to move in order to relieve symptoms. No matter how you want to classify it, the need for symptomatic relief is huge amongst those who experience it.
If these symptoms resonate with you, know that you’re not alone. It’s estimated that seven to 10 percent of the US population experiences symptoms of restless legs. It can impact anyone regardless of age or gender, although it’s found more often in women and in people who are middle-aged and older. Some people may experience symptoms sporadically, with periods of improvement. Patients with more severe cases of restless leg syndrome may experience symptoms two or more times each week.
Treatment for restless legs can vary depending on what’s causing the condition. Patients with restless legs due to an iron deficiency may experience symptomatic relief with iron supplements, while other patients find relief through anti-seizure medication. There is a specific segment of patients who also find considerable relief by treating a seemingly unrelated condition: varicose veins. But if we look closely, we’ll find that there is a strong correlation between varicose veins and restless legs. As a result, treating one can lead to significant symptomatic relief for the other.
What are Varicose Veins?
Before we discuss how restless legs correlate with venous insufficiency, let’s first understand varicose veins. Valves in your veins are responsible for circulating blood throughout your body. This proves to be difficult in your legs — valves have to work harder to push blood upward, against the flow of gravity. If these vein valves are damaged or weakened, then they aren’t as capable of proper circulation. Blood pools in the vein as a result and creates a varicose vein.
As you can imagine, your legs don’t handle this blood pooling very well. A telltale symptom of varicose veins is the appearance of dark, bulging veins that are visible just under the skin. This can make many feel self-conscious about their legs, but it’s important to note that varicose veins are more than just cosmetic. They can cause the legs to swell and/or feel heavy, sore, itchy, and even restless. These symptoms are often in line with the symptoms reported by patients with restless leg syndrome. Phlebologists have accepted restless legs as a varicose vein symptom that can be minimized with vein treatment.
It’s also worth noting that, when left untreated, varicose veins can leave you at a higher risk for other conditions like venous ulcers and blood clots. It’s always worth seeing a specialist about any vein concerns sooner rather than later.
Treating Veins for Restless Leg Relief
Venous insufficiency can cause changes in blood volume in the leg throughout the day. Sometimes, correcting that insufficiency can also offer symptomatic relief for restless leg syndrome. A study published by the Journal of Phlebology states that, in a study of patients with both restless legs and venous insufficiency, 98 percent of patients had symptomatic relief from their restless legs after undergoing vein treatment. Our team at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center has even seen patients decrease their medication for restless leg syndrome — and, in some cases, stop taking it completely.
Restless leg syndrome can be a debilitating condition due to its considerable impact on sleep quality. If symptoms can be reduced through vein treatment, then why wait on pursuing treatment? Treatment options for varicose veins are minimally invasive, with little downtime so you can get back to life ASAP. For many patients, that means returning to their daily lives well-rested, without painful or restless legs.
If you choose to see a vein specialist about your restless leg syndrome, the treatment process will first begin with a diagnostic vascular ultrasound. This will allow the vein specialist to verify whether you have an underlying case of venous insufficiency. They will then use their findings to create a treatment plan that will be best for your veins.
Modern treatment has come a long way from painful vein stripping. Now, treatment generally involves applying heat, a sclerosing agent, or specialized medical glue to the vein. Each of these methods closes off the impacted vein, effectively removing it without any scarring. Your specialist may also suggest other, simple lifestyle changes to improve your vein health, including using compression socks or incorporating low-impact exercises into your daily routine to boost circulation in the leg.
Are you wondering if your restless legs could be a symptom of varicose veins? Don’t wait to find relief — come visit our team of the best vascular surgeons in Orlando at Central Florida Vein & Vascular Center. We would love to help you by assessing your vein health and determining whether vein treatment would be beneficial for your restless leg symptoms. You can call us at 407-545-3385 or 352-658-5547 today to schedule a consultation.