Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) a Symptom of Varicose Veins?

Varicose veins are usually recognized by their unsightly appearance – large bulging veins, either green or bluish purple – most commonly found on the legs, although they can appear anywhere on the body. But these relatively small veins are actually a medical issue (covered by insurance) rather than cosmetic (not covered by insurance) and can cause moderate to severe health problems.

The symptoms of varicose veins may seem minor at first but may indicate serious conditions that can escalate quickly if the veins are left untreated.

Many patients are surprised to learn that one of the most common symptoms of varicose veins is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) – the irresistible feeling to move your legs, especially at night while trying to sleep. How can the two different conditions be related?
We’re first going to discuss the causes and symptoms of varicose veins a little more in-depth, then explain how RLS is connected to varicose veins, and last, what patients can do to find relief.

Causes of Varicose Veins

Varicose veins are caused when valves in leg veins malfunction and lose the ability to maintain proper blood flow. Eventually, blood starts to pool in the leg veins, causing them to bulge out. This condition is generally more pronounced in the legs where the veins are furthest from the heart and must work against gravity to return blood to the chest cavity.

Many people connect varicose veins with pregnant women, but varicose veins can happen to anyone of any demographic. Yes, pregnant women often develop varicose veins because of hormonal changes increasing the volume of blood in the body. While these changes protect the growing fetus, they can have adverse consequences. Any adult can suffer from varicose veins – and may not even know it!

Symptoms of Varicose Veins

Especially in the early stages, symptoms of varicose veins are not particularly pronounced. Many people don’t even have bulging veins at all. However, many common issues may develop the longer the veins persist, including:

  • Swollen ankles
  • Itchiness around the shin region
  • Dull, aching pain that worsens as the day progresses
  • Legs always feeling tired and heavy
  • Muscle cramps, usually at night
  • Inflammation or reddening of the skin
  • Restless legs when trying to sleep at night

Varicose veins can become severely uncomfortable so patients are encouraged to find early treatment.

Varicose Veins and Restless Leg Syndrome

Although not everyone understands the symptoms of varicose veins, many do know the telltale signs of RLS. The sensations associated with this condition include:

  • Throbbing
  • Itching
  • Pulling Sensation
  • Aching
  • Creeping (prickly feeling)

Restless leg syndrome affects about 10-15% of Americans, though not all of these cases are caused by varicose veins. However, varicose veins do appear in many RLS patients. If you suspect you have RLS, it’s possible that varicose veins are causing them. Treating varicose veins leads to an improvement in RLS most of the time.