Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) affects millions of Americans nightly. This problem causes interrupted sleep and all the problems associated with it. Difficulty performing at work, interacting with co-workers, but more serious problems may also stem from lack of sleep. Hormone imbalances, weight gain, lack of energy – the physiologic effects of lack of sleep are long reaching and well studied. One cause we address here is Restless Leg Syndrome. Given its title many wonder how it comes about.
The Vascular system, inclusive of Arteries, Veins & Lymphatics functions are not only delivery of oxygen and nutrients but also removal of carbon dioxide, metabolic byproducts and volume. Venous insufficiency’s contribution to RLS is the backup of metabolic byproducts in our legs. This backup of metabolic waste incites inflammation in the tissue surrounding our vessels and our muscles. Edema in the soft tissue is associated with this loss of vascular function that culminates in one of many symptoms: RLS.
RLS has many symptoms. Symptoms include: Nighttime leg twitching with associated sensations of Crawling, Pulling, Throbbing, Aching, Itching and Stinging sensations. One major reason for its development is Vascular dysfunction or the inability of blood not only to enter your legs, but also to leave them. Because of Venous Insufficiency’s slow onset and lack of threat people just “deal” with the symptoms without placing emphasis on its impact.
Sleep Deprivation associated with RLS can keep patients from functioning throughout the day and thereby can technically be disabling. Have you been so tired from lack of sleep during the day that you could not perform to the level necessary for your profession? As a General Surgeon performing call functions I have stressed my body. Functioning with this strain can be done and we can adapt to this stress, but at what cost to ourselves?
Sleep deprivation has a direct impact on memory, mood, your immune system, concentration, associated health problems (diabetes, cardiovascular problems, impotence) with some of these ultimately funneling back into the problem at base. With poor cardiovascular function the difficulty not only of blood entering and leaving the legs the symptoms can worsen leading into a “circular” problem that can, and does, support itself when it reaches a critical point.
If you and by extension your significant other suffer from this problem please talk to your Primary care physician to have an evaluation for Vascular function. A simple, effective, screening test would be application of appropriately sized compression stockings. Symptom improvement would be immediate and RLS symptoms would markedly diminish while sleeping at night. All of my patients utilize compression stockings prior to any intervention. This modality proves to them the significance of compression and the assistance of venous evacuation of blood’s association. Immediately without compression symptoms return fueling the want for a repair that does not require compression.
For all my patients reading this, we have had these talks at length and you are all well informed. You can call me anytime with questions regarding this topic or any others I have published or discussed. Thank you for your attention and remember to try to learn something new everyday.