Restless Leg Syndrome’s Little-Known Potential Cause: Venous Insufficiency

Everyone with restless legs knows the symptoms – crawling, throbbing, aching sensations that cause an uncontrollable and uncomfortable urge to move the legs. Common at night or during periods of rest, restless leg syndrome (RLS) may affect as many as 1 in 10 people and is often hereditary. But one question has been lingering for those with RLS:

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg in Bed

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless leg syndrome has been linked to a variety of causes and conditions, including iron deficiency, pregnancy, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, Parkinson’s disease and regular use of alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine.

However, venous insufficiency is also a common condition found in patients with restless leg syndrome.

RLS is a symptom that’s frequently reported by people with venous insufficiency. For some patients, restless legs can be a sign that a patient has venous insufficiency with varicose veins.

Here’s How Venous Insufficiency May Contribute to Restless Legs

Venous insufficiency is caused by valves in the veins that do not close correctly, leading to blood pooling in the lower legs.

These veins have nerves in them, so when blood pools in the lower legs, it stretches the veins and can cause the nerves to become overactive from being chronically stretched out.

This can contribute to a “pins and needles” sensation in the legs and, for some patients, an overwhelming urge to move your legs while sitting or lying down for extended periods of time.

Person holds leg

Could My Restless Leg Syndrome be Caused by Venous Insufficiency?

In some cases, there is a very strong correlation between venous insufficiency and restless leg symptoms.  In one study, symptoms of restless leg syndrome are 34.5% more prevalent in patients with superficial venous insufficiency.

For patients who have this combination of restless legs with venous insufficiency that develop varicose veins, it’s common to experience heaviness, aching, throbbing, and pain on a chronic basis, and only made worse when resting. When these patients try to sleep, their legs become restless and they feel a sensation to move.

These symptoms can be mild and occasional, but for others they can be frequent and debilitating. Patients with either venous insufficiency or restless legs syndrome should watch out for:

If you are concerned about the role that venous insufficiency may be playing in your restless leg syndrome, schedule a consultation with a vein specialist to learn more.

Treating Restless Legs Caused by Venous Insufficiency

Many patients that have both venous insufficiency and restless legs that undergo varicose vein treatment have reported a significant improvement in their restless leg syndrome.

In one study, nearly 98% of RLS patients experienced a reduction in symptoms immediately after sclerotherapy treatment, with the majority reporting relief from restless leg syndrome 2 years afterward.

Similarly, patients that were offered endovenous ablation for their restless leg syndrome experienced an improvement in 90% of cases, with one-third reporting that the treatment had completely relieved them of RLS symptoms.

If you are experiencing restless leg syndrome and would like to be evaluated for venous insufficiency, fill out our Online Vein Screening Form to set up a consultation or call any of our clinics in Northwest Portland , TigardHappy Valley, Hillsboro or Bend, Oregon.

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