Are those legs twitches that have been keeping you up at night caused by your varicose veins?
Up to 10% of the U.S. population suffers from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a condition marked by involuntary leg twitches and movements. These symptoms tend to strike at night, when patients are trying to rest. This leaves them sleep-deprived and fatigued during the day.
Treating RLS depends on identifying the underlying cause. Iron deficiency, neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and kidney disease have been cited as possible reasons why RLS occurs in some individuals. A family history of RLS and medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-nausea drugs may play a role as well.
Consequently, RLS patients may be prescribed anticonvulsants or the same dopamine-regulating drugs used to treat Parkinson’s. Many RLS patients are tested for anemia, since iron deficiency might be the source of their condition. If iron deficient, they can take supplements to boost their red blood cell count. Finally, there are several therapies approved by the Food & Drug Administration to treat severe RLS.
However, several medical studies have linked RLS with venous insufficiency. Research also documents how treating varicose veins could help alleviate the symptoms of RLS.
The Association Between Varicose Veins and RLS
In 2007, the journal Phlebology published a study of 174 patients. Of that number, 63, or 36%, were diagnosed with RLS. Nearly all of the RLS patients were subsequently found to also have chronic venous venous disorders after an ultrasound exam. The researchers therefore concluded that RLS patients may also have varicose veins at the same time.
This finding isn’t surprising, as RLS and varicose veins share many of the same symptoms. When the valves in the legs fail to pump blood back to the heart, varicose veins cause itching, throbbing, and heaviness in the legs. At times, these symptoms disrupt sleep. But because varicose veins can be hidden deep within the legs, patients may not associate their RLS with venous insufficiency.
Given the connection between RLS and varicose veins, it makes sense that treating one could resolve the other, as well — and a 1995 study affirmed this theory. The study found that the majority of RLS patients with underlying vein disorders responded well to sclerotherapy, a common therapy for varicose veins. During sclerotherapy, a substance known as a sclerosant is injected into the damaged vein to seal it off.
Once the varicose vein is sealed, blood diverts into healthy veins nearby, and the varicose vein eventually shrinks and is absorbed back into the body. Sclerotherapy is one of the leading treatments for varicose veins, and it’s possible that it could rid you of your RLS, as well.
Can Vein Therapy Help Your RLS?
RLS has many causes, so a thorough medical evaluation must be performed to determine the exact origin of yours. If you are diagnosed with RLS and varicose veins, one of the doctors at the Desert Vein Institute can meet with you to discuss treatment options for varicose veins that will help you sleep better at night. Contact us today for an appointment.