Restless leg syndrome is, as the name suggests, a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible desire to constantly move your legs due to pain and intense itching, tingling and burning sensations in the legs. These sensations are often worse during the night or when resting and sitting still and are alleviated by walking and moving around. In severe cases, restless leg syndrome can result in insomnia or psychosocial problems due to the person not being able to be still. It is estimated that up to 15 percent of the population suffer from restless leg syndrome, and this disorder most frequently affects middle-aged or older individuals. However, our vein specialists note that children and adolescents can develop the disease. While the exact causes and mechanisms of restless leg syndrome are unknown, several potential causes and risk factors have been proposed.

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is known to run in families, so one likely cause of this disorder is genetic factors. Other proposed causes include neurological deficiencies and deficient cortisol levels. In some cases, restless leg syndrome is associated with other known conditions such as pregnancy, vein disease, diabetes, obesity, anemia or kidney failure.

Risk Factors of Restless Leg Syndrome

Although restless leg syndrome is not well understood, numerous risk factors for developing the disease have been identified. These include a family history of the disease, being on dialysis, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (particularly in children), anxiety, osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, hyperthyroidism, emphysema, brain or spinal injuries, nerve or muscle conditions, alcoholism and vein disorders such as venous insufficiency and varicose veins.

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome

The treatment for restless leg syndrome is firstly aimed at diagnosing and treating the underlying disease. For example, if anemia is the underlying cause, a simple blood test to diagnose iron deficiency and subsequent iron supplementation may be enough to improve the symptoms in some cases.

Interestingly, one recent study showed that more than a fifth of all people with restless leg syndrome suffer concurrent venous insufficiency and another study similarly found that treatment of the venous insufficiency in these patients resulted in improvement of the restless leg syndrome symptoms in almost all patients, with 80 percent experiencing long-term relief.

It is important that you get your symptoms diagnosed by a specialist as other conditions, including venous insufficiency and varicose veins, can mimic some symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Simply making an appointment to see a vein specialist for a free consultation could potentially help alleviate your symptoms once and for all.