What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome is a nervous system disorder that causes unpleasant sensations such as itching or tingling in the legs, feet, or thighs. People who have RLS feel an overpowering urge to move their legs to make these uncomfortable feelings go away. Unfortunately, moving around only provides temporary relief. Trying to ignore them simply doesn’t work, either, because they can last for hours. According to one study, correcting vein issues significantly improved RLS in patients, with some experiencing a large improvement and others noticing complete relief.
Why Is RLS Serious?
Restless legs syndrome can profoundly impact your quality of life and overall health, mainly because it affects your ability to get enough sleep. The symptoms of RLS often get worse at bedtime, making it impossible to fall asleep normally. They can even wake you up in the middle of the night.
Not sleeping properly affects your entire body. You may feel physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted during the day. Focusing at work can be difficult, and you don’t have the same energy levels. Your immune system also takes a hit without proper rest, so it’s easier to get sick.
Who Does RLS Affect?
Anyone can develop restless legs syndrome, and some people with mild symptoms aren’t even aware they have it. That said, RLS is more common in middle-aged and senior adults. The
symptoms may appear earlier in life and worsen with age, gradually becoming more difficult to ignore.
Women are more likely to experience the disorder than men, though many men have RLS, too. Many pregnant women have temporary problems with restless legs syndrome. About a month after giving birth, the symptoms gradually disappear.
The risk factors for vein disease are similar. About a quarter of all adults – men and women – will develop varicose veins at some point in their lives. Women carry a slightly higher risk, as pregnancy can cause varicose veins.
How Can You Tell That You Have RLS?
The main way to tell that you have restless legs syndrome is that you experience strange feelings in your legs that only go away when you move. For some, the sensations are painful. Others notice an intense feeling of itching. You may even feel like something is crawling on you, even though nothing is there.
Here are some of the main symptoms of restless legs syndrome:
- Leg tingling
- Pins and needles
- Crawling sensations
- Feelings of someone pulling on your muscles
- Involuntary leg movements
These symptoms can show up every night or only a few times a week. They can change, get more intense, and move from one side of the body to the other. Even though RLS typically affects your legs, strange feelings can also appear in other parts of your body, such as your arms, head, or chest.
What Causes RLS?
Scientists aren’t exactly sure what triggers restless legs syndrome. There may be more than one cause. Many people who have RLS also have a family member with the condition, so it’s likely there is a genetic link, as well.
Another trigger may be varicose veins or other vein circulation problems. Swollen veins caused by blood pooling in the legs can cause similar symptoms to RLS, such as itching and aches. Many people who have RLS and varicose veins notice that treating one of the conditions also provides relief for the other.
In some people, RLS appears to be related to levels of brain chemicals called neurotransmitters. One of these chemicals, dopamine, plays a role in controlling muscle movements in the body. RLS may happen when dopamine levels are imbalanced, which explains why certain antidepressant medications and allergy medications can make symptoms worse.
Low levels of iron or other vitamins may also contribute to RLS. People who have chronic diseases may develop RLS, especially when these conditions cause iron deficiency. Severe kidney problems, diabetes, nerve damage, and Parkinson’s disease can cause similar symptoms.
Why Does RLS Get Worse at Night?
One of the most common questions people have about RLS is why it gets worse at night and usually goes away early in the morning. One of the simplest explanations may be that your legs are exhausted after a long day sitting or standing. If your legs feel heavy or achy in the evening, try treating your feet with a soothing massage and see if that helps.
What Things Should You Avoid If You Have RLS?
Identifying your personal triggers can do a lot to help with RLS symptoms and vein disease. Here are some of the things you may want to avoid, especially near bedtime:
Anxiety makes RLS symptoms worse and causes even more problems sleeping. In turn, not sleeping makes you feel more stressed. To break the cycle, you need to do things that help you feel relaxed at night.
What Things Can You Do to Alleviate RLS?
The good news is that there are many things you can do at home to alleviate the symptoms of RLS. Discover what works best in your case and add it to your regular routine. Here are some suggestions:
- Take a warm bath at night.
- Eat a balanced diet with fruit, veggies, nuts and beans.
- Give your legs and feet a gentle massage.
- Wear compression stockings.
- Encourage good sleep habits.
- Read or listen to relaxing music near bedtime.
- Exercise or walk during the day.
- Sleep on your side and use a pillow between your legs.
In addition, it’s a good idea to speak with a medical professional who has experience with RLS. This is especially important if you’re experiencing intense symptoms or problems getting in the way of your lifestyle.
What Treatments Are Available for RLS?
The first thing a professional will do to help you find relief is narrow down the cause. This means asking a lot of questions about your symptoms. Here are some common treatment options for restless legs syndrome:
- If you have anemia or iron deficiency, your doctor will recommend a nutritional supplement or diet that gives you more of the vitamins and minerals you need.
Vein disease treatment:
- When the symptoms of RLS are triggered by vein circulation issues and damaged veins, minimally invasive vein treatment may be the answer. These treatments close off malfunctioning blood vessels and reroute blood through healthy veins. This can provide relief from the heaviness, soreness, and itching that make RLS worse.
- If the cause of RLS in your case is a dopamine deficiency, specific medications that boost dopamine levels may give you relief. Medications are usually the last resort after other treatments have been tried.
Treatments can involve some trial and error as the doctor tries to get at the underlying problem. If you have a chronic disease such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or varicose veins, treatment will also focus on improving those conditions.
How Can Vein Treatment Help You?
If you have chronic venous insufficiency, spider veins, or varicose veins, these conditions may be triggering your RLS symptoms. At Northern Illinois Vein Clinic, our caring professionals can help you find treatment options tailored to your needs and lifestyle. Contact us online or call (779) 696-8346 right away to schedule an appointment.