What is Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS?
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), which is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, is classified as a nervous system disorder. However, because the urge to move the legs often occurs at rest or at night when a person is trying to sleep, RLS is often also deemed a sleep disorder.
The urge to move the legs is usually caused by an uncomfortable onset of painful sensations, which can be described as itching, tingling, or burning, and is usually relieved by moving around, walking, or repeated leg movements. People who suffer from RLS can have extreme difficulty with trying to rest or sleep because the syndrome can both prevent falling asleep and cause repeated awakening through the night.
Who is most likely to suffer from RLS?
It is estimated that somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of the population suffer from RLS, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, but the issue is more prevalent in older age groups. RLS diagnosis is only possible according to a patient’s symptoms, a physical assessment, and through an elimination process with other possible conditions because there is currently no specific testing process for the disorder. However, there could be a link between RLS and venous insufficiency, which is present in as many as 22 percent of patients, as reported by the journal of Dermatologic Surgery.
Taking a Closer Look at the Traditional Treatment of RLS
The biggest part of treating RLS is aimed at alleviating the symptoms associated with the syndrome. People who have serious issues with RLS are usually recommended by a physician to make changes in their typical lifestyle, which may include incorporating more activity and exercise. Limiting or eliminating stimulants, such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can also help. In some cases, treatment for conditions that are associated with RLS may help to alleviate the symptoms as well.
A few treatment options for RLS that do not include the use of medications include:
- Therapeutic leg massage
- Applied heat therapy to the legs with heat packs or hot soaks
- Maintaining healthy sleeping habits
- Using a vibrating pad when at rest beneath the legs
Prescription medications often used in restless leg syndrome treatment include:
- Dopaminergic drugs – These drugs work by affecting the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Mirapex and Neupro are a few FDA-approved examples.
- Benzodiazepines – These are usually classified as sedatives and can help with sleep. Benzodiazepines can cause daytime drowsiness.
- Pain Relievers – Narcotic pain relievers may be used if severe pain is experienced with RLS.
- Anticonvulsants – These drugs, often prescribed for people suffering with seizures, may help for RLS. Tegretol, Neurontin, Horizant and Lyrica are a few examples.
There is currently no known cure for RLS, but there are treatments that can help to alleviate the symptoms. Even though drugs can be effective in treating the symptoms, they are not often a logical choice for sufferers who have issues with daytime RLS, as drowsiness can be a big issue.
Sclerotherapy and Endovenous Laser Treatment for RLS
Varicose veins are typically caused by unhealthy blood circulation inside of the veins, often relative to unhealthy valve function. When the valves of the veins do not function properly or leak, the blood inside of the veins reverts back through the valves, which can cause the veins to appear to bulge or enlarge. A connection was made by scientists between people who suffer from varicose veins and those who had side effects similar to varicose veins due to RLS.
Non-surgical sclerotherapy is one of the more modern forms of RLS treatment. During this treatment, a phlebologist performs the sclerotherapy or endovenous laser procedure, which is virtually painless and only takes about an hour to complete. This procedure allows the patient to move freely once complete, resuming regular activity. One recent study found that at least 98% of patients found relief after treatment of varicose veins. Because of the correlation between venous issues and RLS, many practitioners believe that by treating the underlying varicose vein problem, patients may be relieved from some of the symptoms of RLS.
Come to the Vein Institute of Utah
At the Vein Institute of Utah, we commonly treat patients who have issues with varicose veins that could be causing Restless Leg Syndrome. Contact us today if you believe that your RLS symptoms could be relative to issues with varicose veins and to sign up for a free screening to see if vascular restless leg syndrome treatment is right for you.