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What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome or RLS is a chronic condition characterized by uncomfortable leg sensations and an overwhelming desire to move the legs. The condition typically worsens at night and can significantly interfere with the patient’s ability to sleep. RLS is categorized as a nervous system disorder, but studies have indicated a strong correlation between RLS and some vein diseases.

Who Gets RLS?
It is estimated that RLS affects approximately 10 percent of the entire population. It can occur at any age, but tends to be more prevalent and severe in older adults. RLS occurs more frequently in women. The condition is often misdiagnosed, particularly in those experiencing mild or infrequent symptoms. Some risk factors for developing RLS include pregnancy, some types of chronic conditions and certain medications.

Symptoms of RLS
RLS symptoms include a feeling of crawling or pulling in the legs, usually when you are ready to relax at the end of the day. Moving the legs often relieves the symptoms, but most sufferers find they will return persistently. In some cases, RLS interferes with sleep and patients may suffer during the day with lower productivity and a lower quality of life overall. Some patients with RLS may become depressed, due to the consistent sleep deprivation.

Link between RLS and Venous Insufficiency
A 1995 study published in the journal Dermatologic Surgery found that 22 percent of patients diagnosed with venous insufficiency also suffered from symptoms of RLS. Venous insufficiency is a condition where veins, usually in the lower leg, become damaged and cannot function as efficiently. Blood pools in the veins, leading to swelling and the formation of varicose veins. This condition is also more prevalent in the older population and can worsen over time if it is left untreated.

Treatment Options
The good news is the same study that linked RLS to venous insufficiency also found that patients treated for the vein disorder saw improvement in their RLS symptoms. In this particular study, 98 percent of patients that underwent an injectable treatment for varicose veins known as sclerotherapy experienced initial relief from RLS symptoms. Researchers concluded that patients suffering from RLS should be screened for venous insufficiency to see if treatment was appropriate.

While not every patient suffering from RLS is a candidate for vein treatment, those that have symptoms of a vein disorder like swelling or the appearance of varicose veins may be good candidates for an evaluation. If a vein disorder is diagnosed, treatment may help relieve RLS symptoms at the same time. To learn more about RLS or its link to vein disease, contact Carolina Vein Associates at 704-684-4511.