What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

As the name implies, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition where the person has an uncontrollable urge to move their legs.

Is There a Relationship between Restless Legs and Venous Disease?

Do you experience restless legs? This may be caused by venous reflux disease.

Recent research shows that restless legs syndrome could actually be venous reflux disease in many patients. This possibility if often overlooked or completely misdiagnosed by doctors. The symptoms of venous disease and restless legs syndrome are very similar — pain, discomfort, and heaviness in the legs that can cause restlessness in the legs. Patients with varicose veins often complain of creepy crawly pains in their legs, which are also symptoms of RLS. Research now reveals that over one fifth of patients with RLS also suffer from vein disease.

Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

Classified as a sleep disorder because it often interrupts the person’s sleep, RLS symptoms can range from mild to intolerable. These sensations can be described as itchy, creepy crawly, or pins and needles. They are usually more prevalent at night when the person is either sitting or lying down. RLS can be associated with another, more common condition called periodic limb movement of sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kick while you sleep.

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

In many cases, there isn’t a known direct cause of restless legs syndrome. Some research points to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which sends messages to control muscle movement. If RLS starts before the age of 40, there appears to be a genetic tendency that runs in families.

Effectiveness of Treating Venous Reflux on RLS

By closing off the varicose veins, both ablation and sclerotherapy dramatically decrease the symptoms of restless legs syndrome in many patients. That’s why at Southwest Vein & Leg Center, we always consider the possibility of a causal link between restless legs syndrome and venous disease.

What is Venous Reflux Disease?

Venous reflux disease, also known as venous insufficiency, is a medical condition where the valves in the veins of the legs malfunction. This allows blood to pool instead of being pushed back up toward the heart. This is how varicose veins, spider veins and symptoms from vein disease begin.

Treatments for Venous Reflux

For minor cases of venous disease, treatments can be as simple as wearing compression stockings, keeping your legs elevated as much as possible, or taking medications that increase blood flow. But these will not address more involved cases of venous disease with larger varicose veins.

For treating the varicose veins, the two most common methods are endovenous laser ablation or radiofrequency ablation, and sclerotherapy (often foam sclerotherapy).

  • Endovenous ablation – Endovenous ablation can be done with laser energy or radiofrequency energy. In laser ablation, a thin laser fiber is inserted into the vein through a small nick in the skin. The laser is then turned on and the fiber withdrawn slowly from the vein. As it travels up the vein, the laser energy converts to heat. The vein walls absorb the heat energy and they collapse. This continues up the varicose vein as the laser is slowly withdrawn.With radiofrequency energy, a small catheter is inserted into the vein. It is able to deliver radiofrequency through its tip. After insertion down the varicose vein, the radiofrequency energy is turned on. In the vein, it converts to heat and collapses the vein wall, just as the laser energy did.
  • Micro foam Sclerotherapy – Sclerotherapy has been used since the 1930s to close off small varicose veins and spider veins. A sclerosing agent called polidocanol (varithena) is a medical detergent that is injected into the vein. This agent irritates the vein walls, causing them to collapse, closing off the vein. In larger varicose veins, the sclerosing agent is turned into foam so it is able to spend more time in the vein before becoming diluted and is easily seen under ultrasound guidance.

What Are the Signs of Venous Reflux?

Leg Heaviness or Fatigue – At the end of a long day on your feet do you ever feel like your shoes are filled with concrete, or that you are struggling to lift your feet with every step? If so, you could be suffering from venous reflux disease. Leg heaviness and fatigue are some of the most common symptoms associated with venous reflux.

Prolonged Swelling or Edema – Do you ever notice an indention from your socks when you get home in the evening, or when you are hitting the gym after work? This could be an indication that you could have blood pooling in your legs from venous reflux disease. Undiagnosed swelling is a very common symptom of vein disease that can easily be treated by an in-office procedure.

Aching and Throbbing – Untreated venous disease can make your legs feel achy and cause an overall feeling of fullness. These symptoms can continue to get worse, and over time, limit your daily activities. If you are tired of not being able to do what you want because of constant pain in your legs, maybe it’s time to take control of your leg symptoms and come in for a free screening to be evaluated for venous reflux.

Itching and Burning – Many patients experience itching and burning over their varicose or spider veins. This symptom is caused by the blood becoming stagnant due to non-functioning valves within the veins. These veins can usually be treated with as little as a small injection of a sclerosant foam.

Restless Leg Syndrome – Are you constantly having to move your legs to try and get comfortable at night? Has your partner ever told you that you are constantly moving and kicking in your sleep? It may be time for you to get screened for venous reflux disease.

Numbness and Tingling – How many times a week do you have that feeling of your feet or legs being asleep, and trying to wake up? It can be extremely uncomfortable and drive you nuts if it’s happening frequently. The cause of your numbness and tingling may actually be from your veins not functioning properly.

Discoloration and Skin Changes – Have you ever noticed a browning discoloration or hardening of the skin in your lower leg? These can be some of the more progressive symptoms of venous reflux disease. It usually takes years for these symptoms to occur, but it’s not too late to get them treated.

Skin Breakdown and Ulceration

Skin breakdown and ulceration are a symptom of advanced chronic venous insufficiency that has developed over several years in patients. It’s still not too late to get the help and get your veins treated to prevent further ulcers from forming and heal the current ones that are limiting your daily life and activities. Even after the ulcer is fully healed, if there is underlying vein disease, it may reopen and continue the cycle of wound care and pain management associated with these ulcerations.

Are you Ready to Get started?


Call 817.235.0769 to schedule your screening and see how Southwest Vein and Leg Center’s Venous Reflux treatments can improve your health and quality of life.


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