Roughly 10% of Americans suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological disorder with symptoms that include an irresistible need to move your legs.

As many as 9 in 10 people with RLS have a related disorder called periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS), marked by abrupt and repeated leg movements while asleep.

Ashish Pal, MD, has extensive experience treating RLS and PLMS at Vein & Cardiovascular Center. He uses advanced techniques tailored to each person’s symptoms and needs. Here’s how RLS works and how it can make it hard for you to get a good night’s sleep.

What causes RLS?

RLS is a relatively common problem, especially for people 45 and older. But researchers still don’t know why it occurs. They do know it tends to be common among people with vein problems that affect their legs, like chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) and varicose veins.

CVI and varicose veins result when the tiny valves inside your veins stop working the way they’re supposed to. By interfering with normal blood flow, venous diseases deprive your leg muscles and other tissues of oxygen and vital nutrients.

Venous problems also are often associated with leg fatigue, cramps, and feelings of heaviness, especially after strenuous physical activity.

While venous disease is a likely cause of RLS symptoms, other risk factors are associated with the disorder, including:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Anemia
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Use of certain medications

Like venous disease, RLS tends to run in families — 40%-90% of sufferers report a parent or sibling with the disorder.

Some people find their symptoms are worse when they consume alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine, substances that can lead to sleep disturbances on their own. If you suffer from RLS, avoid or limit these substances to see if your symptoms improve.

RLS and sleep

Both RLS and PLMS can make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. Often, symptoms are worse when you first lie down. Other times, rapid, jerking leg movements wake you during the night, interrupting deep sleep cycles. These movements can happen dozens of times a night.

Sleep is when your body recovers and repairs itself. Not surprisingly, when RLS interferes with your sleep, it can cause health problems, including:

  • Worsening immune function
  • Moodiness and increased risk of depression
  • Increased risk of daytime accidents
  • Poor work performance
  • Relationship problems
  • Decreased ability to deal with stress
  • Worsening of chronic pain
  • Increased risk of obesity
  • Higher risks of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart problems

Prompt treatment for RLS helps restore normal, healthy sleep patterns to reduce these risks.

Treating RLS and PLMS

Because of the link between RLS and vein problems, having a vein evaluation is important to make sure the condition is treated promptly. Before prescribing treatment, Dr. Pal performs an exam, including an in-depth assessment of your symptoms and vein health.

When he identifies circulation problems, Dr. Pal recommends treatment based on your specific needs. Treatments for CVI and varicose veins typically involve minimally invasive procedures to close off malfunctioning veins, so blood is rerouted to healthy, neighboring veins.

Dr. Pal performs vein treatments on an outpatient basis, typically in under an hour. Recovery is also quick, and walking is encouraged to help the area heal and promote blood rerouting. These treatments can relieve RLS and other symptoms associated with poor blood flow in your legs.

Don’t let restless legs syndrome rob you of your rest. Call the Vein & Cardiovascular Center location nearest you, in Orlando, Sebring, or Davenport, Florida, or book your appointment online today.

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