What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

what is restless leg syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition characterized by an unpleasant sensation in the legs and a strong urge to move them. This condition affects an estimated 5 to 10% of adults in the United States and shares many of the same symptoms as varicose veins.

At The Vein Institute of Hunterdon, we are committed to helping you find relief from symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Here’s more about what causes this condition and how you can contact us when you’re ready to discuss treatment.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, restless leg syndrome gives you an uncontrollable urge to move one or both legs, usually due to an uncomfortable sensation in the affected leg. Moving your leg can sometimes produce temporary relief, though your discomfort may worsen when you sit or lie down.

Restless leg syndrome can affect anyone, but it becomes more common with age. It can cause major disruptions to your sleep and increase your risk for insomnia and depression. Fortunately, it can be effectively treated, especially if you and your provider can identify its root cause.

What Are the Symptoms?

The most common symptom is an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. Other restless leg syndrome symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable sensations in your legs, such as aching, itching, throbbing, crawling, pulling or creeping
  • Relief with movement, such as when walking, pacing, stretching or jiggling your legs
  • Worsened pain or discomfort at night
  • Leg twitching or kicking at night while sleeping

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

There are no known causes, though researchers think it may be caused by genetics or pregnancy. Certain risk factors may also play a role in the development of this condition.

Potential causes and risk factors include:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Spinal cord conditions
  • Certain medications, including antipsychotics and antidepressants
  • Use of caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Varicose veins

Many symptoms mimic those of varicose veins. Symptoms of varicose veins like aching and throbbing in the legs can often cause discomfort and interfere with sleep just like restless leg syndrome. Furthermore, varicose veins can be difficult to spot, which can make people think they have restless leg syndrome when they really have varicose veins.

What Are the Treatments?

The key to successfully treating restless leg syndrome is being able to identify and treat its underlying cause.

For instance, if varicose veins are causing your symptoms, treatment may involve endovenous laser ablation (EVLT) and sclerotherapy. In a 2019 study published in the journal Cureus, a group of patients with restless leg syndrome was treated with both EVLT and sclerotherapy and experienced a significant improvement in their symptoms.


EVLT involves inserting a thin laser fiber into the varicose vein that is causing symptoms. The laser then heats the vein to destroy it. EVLT is quick and performed in an outpatient setting, and it allows you to resume normal activities following your appointment.


Sclerotherapy involves injecting an irritant into the varicose vein that causes it to shrink and get reabsorbed by the body. This procedure usually takes no more than 30 minutes and causes no downtime.

Ambulatory Phlebectomy

Varicose veins that are too large to be treated with sclerotherapy may be treated using ambulatory phlebectomy. This outpatient procedure involves removing the vein through tiny punctures made in your skin. Like EVLT and sclerotherapy, ambulatory phlebectomy produces no downtime.

Restless leg syndrome may also be treated with medications that reduce certain symptoms. However, keep in mind that medications will not often address the root cause of your condition.

Your provider can talk to you in greater detail about available treatments based on your symptoms and the severity of your condition.

Where to Get Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome

Contact The Vein Institute of Hunterdon at (908) 788-0066 if you are experiencing symptoms of restless leg syndrome or varicose veins. We can perform an evaluation and help you choose a treatment that can help you experience relief.