Restless legs syndrome is a poorly understood phenomenon which results in a deep, uncomfortable sensation of the legs. It is not painful per se, but is the source of untold misery just the same. It is variably described by patients as an internal feeling of crawling insects or an intense, unpleasant tickling perceived as inside the leg as opposed to on the skin. The sensation creates an overwhelming compulsion to move the legs, which renders immediate relief. Symptoms are virtually always worse in the evening or at bedtime when the patient lays down or otherwise puts his feet up. Many patients can only find relief by pacing the floor at night, and impaired sleep is the norm.
It is believed there are two types of restless legs syndrome—primary and secondary. The primary form is likely a brain disorder and can only be treated centrally with medications. However, the secondary form seems to be related to the legs themselves and may respond to other treatments. One purported mechanism may be related to the cycle of daily fluid shifts which results from the leg swelling of conditions such as chronic varicose vein disease. Studies have shown that patients who have restless legs syndrome as well as varicose vein disease will get relief from their restless legs symptoms in up to eighty percent of cases following successful treatment of their varicose veins.
“Restless legs syndrome is such an insufferable affliction that patients are eternally grateful when I’m able to help them get rid of it by treating their varicose vein disease. They are the ones that bring me cheese cakes and send me thank you cards.”
--Corey Johnson, MD