Keeping Up With Restless Legs Syndrome: 5 Questions Answered
Among the many symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS), the most frustrating for Molly
McGarvey of Morgan Hill, CA, was that she simply couldn’t sleep through the night. This
condition, characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move one or both legs, usually flares up in
the evening or at night, when a person is sitting or lying down. Coming on in earnest in her early
40s, McGarvey was rarely able to get a good night’s sleep; “I still wonder how I managed to
make it to work and function,” she told Health.com, “I’d come home from work, fall asleep on
the couch, get up to go to bed, and then would be up all night.”
Over the long term, a situation like this is untenable; not only is RLS itself uncomfortable, but it
can be a real hindrance to everything from work to relationships. The first step in taking this
condition on is learning as much as you can about it. Here, we’ve gathered up some commonly
asked questions about it and provided some answers. Take a look!
How do I know if I have RLS?
The most commonly reported symptom, of course, is that urge to move the legs. Typically, an
uncomfortable feeling arises, which abates when they’re in motion. In addition, there are a
couple other frequently reported symptoms:
– Discomfort at Rest: What makes RLS interesting is that it flairs up when you’ve been
sitting or laying for a long period of time. Symptoms might arise when a person is trying
to get some sleep, watching a movie, or travelling by plane or bus.
– Dynamic Relief: Symptoms tend to subside in response to movement; patients will
stretch, walk, or wiggle their legs.
– Evening Attacks: Interestingly, RLS tends to flair up in the evenings or at night.
– Night Twitches: An associated condition is night-time leg twitching, characterized by
motion as you sleep.
Most with RLS experience specific sensations felt within the leg (rather than on the skin). These
If you experience these symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor for diagnosis.
What’s actually going on?
The interesting thing about RLS is that exact causes are not completely known. Some theorize
that the core of the problem has to do with irregularities in dopamine levels. Among other
functions, this brain chemical is associated with regulating movement. There is also a strong
genetic component—those who have relatives with the condition are more likely to experience it
—and it can also get worse during pregnancy. That said, symptoms tend to subside after
What are the associated conditions?
While in most cases RLS is a standalone condition, it can also accompany certain health issues.
Here’s a quick breakdown:
– Iron Deficiency: Insufficient levels of iron can worsen or even cause RLS. This occurs
in women who experience heavy bleeding during menstruation, in those that give blood
often, or those that regularly experience bleed from the bowels.
– Lesions in the Spine: When lesions develop on the spine, there’s an increased risk of
developing RLS. Those that have had certain spine treatments done like selective nerve
blocks (to help manage pain), are also more likely to develop it.
– Failing Kidneys: Often associated with anemia or iron deficiency, kidney failure can
spur RLS. When they aren’t functioning well, iron levels in the blood drop leading to
onset or worsening of symptoms.
– Peripheral Neuropathy: This when there is damage to the nerves in the
limbs—particularly the hands and feet—and it’s often associated with alcoholism or
– Vein Problems: RLS cases can emerge when there are underlying problems with veins
in the legs. What emerges from the literature is that problems with blood circulation are
clearly associated with the condition.
Naturally, when you visit the doctor, they’ll keep factors like this in mind.
What do I do about RLS?
Despite the causes not being entirely known, treatments are available. Many cases are treated
with pharmaceutical drugs. These can be those aimed at resolving dopamine levels, opioids to
depress the system, those that influence calcium channels, or muscle relaxants and sleep
medications to promote rest. While they’re all effective in taking on the condition, there is
always the risk of side-effects, or, in the case of opioids, addiction.
Another emerging approach involves treating the underlying vein problems. Procedures like
sclerotherapy, radiofrequency ablation, and others can be effective, minimally-invasive
treatments for RLS. The main aim of these is to get rid of sick, varicose veins and promote better
circulation overall. Increasingly, patients are finding these non-pharmaceutical approaches
promote quick, effective results.
Where do I go from here?
If you’re experiencing RLS symptoms, the key is to find good, dedicated treatment. You want to
make sure that the doctor you visit lays out all of the options and is willing to take the time to
answer your questions and explain things. What you shouldn’t do, though, is put off getting
treatment; it’s not worth the suffering (and lost sleep!). With right medical attention, this
condition can be managed and even eliminated.
The team at Hamilton Vein has helped many people with RLS. Employing the latest in minimally-
invasive vein treatments, the team at these Texas-based outpatient clinics prides itself in its
dedicated, patient-centric approach. Learn more about what they do by calling their Houston
office at (281) 565-0033, the Austin location at (512) 551-1403, or San Antonio at (210) 504-
1. ‘Restless Legs Syndrome: 3 Patients’ Stories". 2018. Health.Com. Accessed February 9
2. ‘Restless Legs Syndrome – Symptoms And Causes". 2018. Mayo Clinic. Accessed
February 9 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/restless- legs-