QA On Vein Symptoms – Restless Legs

with Dr. James L. Johnson, II Board Certified General Surgeon

“Restless legs….could it be my veins?”

The answer is yes. Restless legs or the urge to spontaneously move your legs is associated with vein disease in the legs. Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is described as an uncomfortable feeling in the legs that occurs at rest and is relieved by kicking or moving the legs. The feeling is sometimes described as a deep “crawling”, “creeping”, “aching”, “pulling”, or “itching” sensation that is located below the knee and worsens as the day goes on. In a study of patients seeking treatment for varicose veins, of those that reported restless leg syndrome, 98% reported initial improvement in their RLS symptoms from before their veins were treated. 72% of those patients had long term benefit reported.

“How do I know if my restless legs are caused by my veins?”

Many people and physicians don’t know. In fact, in primary RLS, the etiology or cause is unknown at this time.
However, secondary RLS could be the result of various medical problems, including low iron, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson disease, rheumatologic diseases as well as venous disease in the legs.

“What are some other symptoms of my veins having problems?”

Chronic venous disease or veins that are not working properly can result in many symptoms in the lower legs, all of which are worse later in the day and the more someone stands or sits. The symptoms including leg aching, throbbing, itching, burning, tired/heavy legs, cramps and/or Charlie horses. In addition, folks with venous disease can have leg swelling, darkening of the skin and slow healing sores on their legs called ulcers.

“Shouldn’t I be able to see if I have vein problems?”

Not always. Although many patients with venous disease do have visible varicose veins (large rope-like veins) or spider veins, many patients don’t have any visible signs of vein problems, only symptoms. The only way to tell is to do a detailed ultrasound of a person’s legs called a “Vein Mapping” at a vein clinic.

“What exactly is Chronic Venous Disease?”

Veins are designed to provide a pathway for blood to get back to your heart from other parts of your body. The network of veins keeps the blood going in the correct direction with one-way valves. For a variety of reasons, veins can stretch and the valves can fail. The end result is blood flowing in the wrong direction leading to the above symptoms and signs and is referred to as “Chronic Venous Disease” or “Venous Insufficiency”.

“Can I do something about my veins?”

Yes! There are many outpatient, minimally invasive procedures available now to treat Chronic Venous Disease. It is extremely rare for patients with venous disease to have to go through a vein stripping surgery. Almost all patients are now treated in a clinic setting and they are walking on a treadmill before they leave the building without the need for pain medications or significant restrictions on their daily activities. Almost all procedures performed on patients because of symptoms are considered medical procedures and are covered by most health insurance plans. In addition, staying active, avoiding sitting or standing for long periods of time, maintaining a healthy weight and wearing graduated compression stockings may help with some of the symptoms of Chronic Venous Disease.

For additional information on Chronic Venous Disease and its treatments, please visit:

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