Restless Legs, Leg Cramps & Swelling
Learn about restless leg syndrome here, and what Center for Advanced Vein Care can do for you.
What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an irresistible urge to move in order to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. The sensations can range from pain or aching in the muscles, feeling like something is “crawling” under the skin, a “pins and needles” sensation, or even an uncomfortable itch or tickle that won’t go away. In some cases, there is no specific sensation, just a strong urge to move. Movement of the affected body part usually provides temporary relief. Symptoms of RLS typically intensify while relaxing or trying to fall asleep. RLS most commonly affects the legs but can affect other body parts as well, and the symptoms can begin at any age, including childhood.
Primary restless leg syndrome is diagnosed when no other causes of the restlessness can be identified. Typically, it is treated using medications aimed at affecting the suspected neurological cause of the restlessness.
Secondary RLS occurs when the symptoms of restless leg syndrome are actually caused by another medical issue.
What causes restless legs, and what can I do about them?
Some of the causes of Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome include:
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Thyroid disorders
- Vitamin deficiencies (i.e. magnesium, folate)
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Diabetes and hypoglycemia
- Certain autoimmune disorders
- Varicose vein disease
- Use of certain medications (i.e. antihistamines)
There are no specific tests for restless leg syndrome. The diagnosis is made by identifying symptoms and comparing symptoms with criteria outlined by the NIH (National Institute of Health). Your primary care doctor may order non-specific tests to rule out secondary causes of RLS, such as thyroid disorders or vitamin deficiencies. If you have symptoms of RLS and you or a family member has varicose veins or other vein disorders, you should see a vein specialist at Center for Advanced Vein Care for further evaluation.
The goal of treatment of restless leg syndrome is to reduce symptoms, including sleep disturbances caused by restlessness that worsens at night, and improve overall quality of life. Treatment of primary restless leg syndrome should not be considered until possible secondary causes are ruled out, especially venous disorders. It is important to understand that drug therapy does not cure the problem of primary restless leg syndrome; it only treats the symptoms, and can have side effects such as nausea, dizziness, hallucinations, and orthostatic hypotension. Secondary restless leg syndrome may be cured or significantly improved by treating underlying causes of the restlessness.
Varicose Veins and Restless Leg Syndrome
Varicose veins are one of the major contributors to restless leg syndrome. While research investigating the relationship between restless leg syndrome and varicose veins is still in the fledgling stages, it is quite common for patients with symptoms of restlessness to have improvement of their symptoms with correction of venous insufficiency associated with their varicose veins.
The good news is:
Surgery is no longer the only option for treatment of vein conditions such as varicose veins! Newer techniques, such as endovenous laser thermal ablation (EVLT), radiofrequency ablation thermal ablation (RF), ultrasound guided foam sclerotherapy, and visually guided sclerotherapy, allow for the treatment and management of most vein conditions WITHOUT the need for hospitalization, major surgery with general or regional anesthesia, or prolonged recovery times! Most people can be back to work or their daily routines immediately; any restrictions are typically lifted within one week. Also, most evaluations and treatment ARE covered by insurance. Therefore, when you have restless leg syndrome, contact our vein clinic. Our vein doctor can evaluate your condition and prescribe the best treatment method for you, so you can feel more like yourself again.