The Cause of Restless Leg Syndrome and FAQs

About 10% of Americans suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). This condition is frequently misdiagnosed and can be a symptom of an underlying cause. Common underlying causes include chronic venous insufficiency. To be adequately diagnosed and find the right treatment plan, it’s essential to understand the symptoms and different causes of Restless Leg Syndrome, how vein insufficiency factors in, and what your healthcare provider will look for.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome is an uncomfortable, throbbing sensation in the legs that can be alleviated by moving. It is considered a movement disorder for this reason.

Symptoms of restless leg syndrome can range from mild to severe and include:

  • Uncomfortable sensations in the legs often describe ad throbbing, pulling, or creeping in the legs.
  • Feelings are worse at night, especially when the patient has been at rest or immobile for a long time.
  • An irresistible feeling of needing to move the legs to provide relief.

Restless leg syndrome affects men and women, but women are twice as likely as men to experience it. RLS can begin at any age and even affects children from time to time, but it gets more likely and worse with age.

Periods of remission lasting weeks or months have been reported with younger sufferers. More than 80% of RLS patients also have Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep (PLMS). This is involuntary leg twitching while sleeping, as often as every 15-40 seconds. PLMS can occur for part of or the entire night and will often disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation can aggravate RLS, creating a vicious and unhealthy cycle.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome has been linked to:

· Genetics

· Low levels of iron in the brain

· Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions

· Kidney failure

· Diabetes

· Peripheral neuropathy

· Medications such as anti-nausea drugs, antipsychotics, antidepressants that increase serotonin, and cold and allergy treatments that contain sedating antihistamines

· Pregnancy

Alcohol and caffeine have been known to aggravate RLS symptoms.

The Link Between Restless Leg Syndrome and Vein Health

RLS is also associated with chronic venous insufficiency (CVI). With CVI, venous reflux can trigger the uncomfortable sensations associated with RLS. Those with CVI typically have varicose veins present in 25-35% of females and 10-20% of males – a statistic consistent with the more frequent female RLS sufferers. Because patients with Restless Leg Syndrome have a high chance of having chronic venous insufficiency, treatment of the veins can relieve RLS symptoms. A study found in the journal Phlebology found 98% of patients treated for chronic venous insufficiency also found relief from RLS symptoms, with as many as 80% finding long-term relief.

How Is Restless Leg Syndrome Diagnosed?

There isn’t a specific test for RLS, but doctors typically look for four things:

· Symptoms that are worse at night

· An overwhelming urge to move legs for relief

· Symptoms triggered by rest or periods of inactivity

· Relief only brought on by moving legs

To determine if the underlying condition is a vein disease, your doctor will need to complete a physical examination and have a duplex ultrasound performed on the veins. The duplex ultrasound will help identify problems such as reflux and provide an overall picture of both the deep and superficial venous system. You will need to stand for this ultrasound, as this will reveal any blood flow concerns. If you lay down, venous insufficiency can be missed. Have your ultrasound performed at a specialized vein center. These sonographers are trained to find venous insufficiency and produce more accurate results related to vein disease.

Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

There are treatment options for venous insufficiency that can significantly reduce the symptoms of RLS. In the past, surgical stripping of veins was required, but technology has evolved and endovenous laser ablation (ELA) is the safe, non-surgical procedure of choice. The ELA procedure works like this:

· A small, freckle-size incision is made in the skin

· An ultrasound guides a small probe with laser fiber to the damaged vein

· Laser light pulses are sent to the vein, causing the vein’s internal wall to collapse and seal shut. It is completed in about an hour, is done in the office, and only local anesthesia is needed. You’re able to get up and start walking each day and normal activities can be resumed in only a day or two. ELA boats a 98% long-term success rate at keeping the saphenous vein closed.

Sclerotherapy for Restless Leg Syndrome

Another treatment option is sclerotherapy, which is used to treat varicose or spider veins on the surface of the legs. During this procedure:

· A tiny needle injects a solution called sclerosant into the veins

· Sclerosant causes the veins to close

· The body absorbs the treated veins

An ultrasound may need to be used for guidance if deeper branches of the veins are present. Sclerotherapy usually requires multiple treatments.

Restless Leg Syndrome Doctors in Ohio

You don’t have to accept a lifetime of medication as a solution to Restless Leg Syndrome. Instead, have the proper tests performed to find out whether your RLS is caused by venous insufficiency. At Five Clinics, we offer accurate screenings to find the cause of your RLS once and for all. Call or set up an appointment today for more information.

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