Venous Reflex Disease | Treating Restless Legs
Do you experience restless legs? This may be caused by venous reflex disease
Is there a relationship between restless legs and venous disease?
Recent research shows that restless legs syndrome could actually be venous reflex 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.
What is Restless Leg Sydrome
As the name implies, restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition where the person has an uncontrollable urge to move their legs.
What are the 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.
What causes 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.
Restless legs syndrome can also show up with other health conditions and certain chronic diseases. Iron deficiencies, kidney failure, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease often include RLS symptoms. Certain medications, such as antidepressants and allergy medication can worsen RLS symptoms. Pregnant women in their third trimester may experience RLS, but it goes away within a month after delivery.
What is venous reflex disease?
Venous reflex 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 are created.
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What are the treatments for venous disease and how do they affect RLS?
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.
- Sclerotherapy – Sclerotherapy has been used since the 1930s to close off small varicose veins and spider veins. A sclerosing agent, consisting of mainly saline solution, 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. Larger varicose veins must be treated with ablation.
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.