Don't be Afraid of the Doctor

Tapped Out: Vascular Help For Restless Legs Syndrome

Your legs are designed to walk, run, kick, bend and jump just as you intend. However, for around five in every hundred people, this is not the case. Restless leg syndrome (RLS), otherwise known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, forces the sufferer to experience leg cramps and involuntary leg movements throughout the day. There is a range of triggers for RLS, so it is important to consult your GP to identify other health issues.

Process of Elimination

Restless legs syndrome is considered to be a neurological disease that is associated with a part of the brain where dopamine and leg movements are linked. However, the syndrome is poorly understood, and your GP will review your medical history in order to eliminate underlying conditions. Treatments for RLS are available, but there is no cure. Therefore, your GP will ensure that you do not have secondary RLS, meaning that your symptoms are the result of another condition.

These are the most common triggers for secondary RLS:

  • Diabetes
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Anemia (low iron)
  • Kidney disease
  • Insomnia and stress
  • Pregnancy
  • High alcohol, nicotine and caffeine intake
  • Certain medications, especially antidepressants

Often, treatments for these conditions will greatly relieve RLS.

Feel It in Your Veins

One condition that is often overlooked when treating RLS is venous (vein) disease. A 2008 study collected data from patients who had venous insufficiency and symptoms of RLS. Venous insufficiency occurs when the veins struggle to send blood from the legs and arms back to the heart. After undergoing surgery, it was recorded that 80% of patients had an improvement in symptoms with 31% experiencing a complete relief.

Your GP can refer you to a vascular surgeon who will test for venous disease. Possible tests include a venogram and duplex ultrasound:

  • Venogram:  A contrast dye will be put into your veins so that the surgeon can see a clear image of your blood vessels.
  • Duplex ultrasound: After applying gel to your skin, the technician will hold a small device (a transducer) against it in order to test the speed and direction of blood flow.

Rest Easy

If it is discovered that you have venous disease, a vascular surgeon will always seek non-invasive treatments before recommending surgery. However, if you have RLS symptoms that are affecting your quality of life, an operation may provide the relief you need. If you suffer from RLS, put your mind at ease and have your veins checked.