Can Varicose Veins Cause Restless Leg Syndrome?

There have been a number of studies done between restless leg syndrome and other underlying conditions trying to find a reason for this condition happening. 

can varicose veins cause restless leg syndrome

Having restless leg syndrome is frustrating as it can cause this urge to continuously move around, and it seems like it’s insatiable. Many people with this condition will constantly toss and turn in their sleep, or get up and move around at night in an effort to get some relief in their legs. 


Many people living with restless leg syndrome have other medical conditions, but they are not necessarily linked to each other and there hasn’t been a causation found between this condition and other medical issues. 

So, what actually causes restless leg syndrome?

The cause for restless leg syndrome has been linked to a few different underlying medical conditions, including kidney disease, iron deficiency or a lack of dopamine in the basal ganglia area of the brain. 

There are also some medications, taken to help with other medical conditions, that have been common in people who have developed restless leg syndrome. Medications like anti-depressants, antipsychotic, and even anti-nausea have all been found in people who have developed restless leg syndrome. 

Even though there have been common factors in those diagnosed with restless leg syndrome, most doctors are unable to pinpoint an exact reason for each patient as to why they, individually, developed the condition. 

The fact that many doctors don’t actually know why this condition happens means that many patients are given medications they don’t need, and end up not working for their symptoms. 

So those living with this condition just end up frustrated and without any relief from the pain and discomfort they’re feeling – plus they’re exhausted because it’s becoming increasingly difficult to get a good, quality sleep. 

What if there was another cause, though?

If another possible cause of restless leg syndrome was considered then patients might be given the correct treatment and therefore experience relief in their symptoms. 

There have been a number of studies done that have found a link between venous insufficiency and restless leg syndrome. These studies concluded that treating these venous insufficiencies also meant the symptoms of restless leg syndrome were treated. 

Does that mean conditions like varicose veins causes restless leg syndrome?

As far back as 1995 there has been research into finding the connection between varicose veins and restless leg syndrome.

varicose veins surgery

In fact, there was a study done on 1,300 patients with both a form of venous insufficiency and restless leg syndrome. Some of those patients in the group were treated with sclerotherapy (which is an injection into the varicose vein to make it collapse). 

Of those treated with the injection, 98% of them reported that they experienced noticeable relief from their restless leg syndrome symptoms. 

Other studies have found that a very large percentage of people diagnosed with restless leg syndrome all have an underlying venous insufficiency. 

This has led researchers to believe that some form of a venous condition is present in a majority of those who have restless leg syndrome. 

The medical community has not been able to definitely prove that these venous conditions cause restless leg syndrome, however since it has been present in so many people who have this condition it’s reasonable to conclude there is a causation there. 

There are some people who have restless leg syndrome that do not have a venous insufficiency condition, however they are in a minority.

Diagnosis of restless leg syndrome

When someone is experiencing symptoms of restless leg syndrome, they should make an appointment with their primary care doctor to start investigating what could be causing it. 

It’s important that if it’s suspected a person has restless leg syndrome they also are examined for any kind of venous condition. 

It’s also been found that many of the symptoms of varicose veins are similar to those of having restless leg syndrome, so sometimes it can be unclear as to which condition a person has – or if they have both. 

This similarity in symptoms – throbbing, swelling, achiness, and cramps – can confirm even further a link between these two conditions. Additionally, varicose veins can also prevent a person from getting quality sleep because they have similar symptoms. 

This can lead to someone thinking they have restless leg syndrome when really it’s varicose veins. 

Typically, when someone has varicose veins it presents as the blue or purple veins on the surface of a person’s leg. In some cases, varicose veins can be hidden deep in the leg so they won’t be obvious as the cause of the symptoms because they can’t be seen. 

In these cases, people may think that they have restless leg syndrome but they actually have varicose veins that are completely treatable. 

How do you treat varicose veins?

As mentioned, varicose veins – and other venous insufficiencies – are treatable so that those who have these conditions can get relief from the achy veins. 

There are a couple of ways you can treat varicose veins, and even minimize the symptoms experienced. 

Minimally invasive medical treatments

There are injections that can be given to patients who have venous insufficiencies. These injections are meant to collapse the vein entirely. This might seem like it won’t help, but if the vein is collapsed then the blood will take a different path. 

By not trying to go through the vein that is insufficient, the pain will be reduced and those living with the condition will get relief almost immediately. 

These treatments have to be administered by a doctor in a medical setting – like a hospital. Many patients only need one or two of these treatments to experience long-term relief from their symptoms. 

If someone has these symptoms and they are relieved by this treatment, it’s very likely that they don’t actually have restless leg syndrome. 

The two conditions mirror each other very closely, and it can be very difficult to tell which one someone has right away. 

Compression socks 

Many people with chronic varicose veins report that wearing compression socks help them to get daily relief. 

woman putting compression socks after laser varicose treatment

Some patients may not be a candidate for the injection treatment, so compression socks will give them relief daily. 

This type of therapy may also be helpful if a person has a mild form of this condition, and their symptoms are either sporadic or aren’t excruciating. 

Compression socks have also been shown to help with restless leg syndrome – especially if the person with the condition wears them early on in the morning. 

Talking to your doctor 

When you start to notice that your legs are feeling achy or lots of cramps when trying to get to sleep at night, make an appointment to talk to your doctor as soon as possible. 

The sooner you get it looked at and start ruling out potential causes, the sooner you can get some relief from the symptoms. 

In some cases, you may receive temporary relief with various forms of treatment but with both varicose veins and restless leg syndrome you may need to continue receiving treatment as the conditions can come back or develop into more serious symptoms. 

In summary

While there have been many studies where it was concluded there is a definite link between varicose veins (and other venous insufficiency conditions) and restless leg syndrome, it’s hard to say for sure that varicose veins cause this conditions. 

varicose veins cream

Varicose veins do cause a narrowing of the veins, which makes it harder for blood to properly circulate. This happening can cause aches and cramps in our legs, mimicking the symptoms of restless legs. 

This isn’t to say for sure that having varicose veins means you will develop restless leg syndrome as once you receive treatment the symptoms may disappear.

Once you meet with your doctor, they may send you for some tests to rule out any kind of underlying vein issue. By making sure they know there aren’t any other reasons for restless legs, a doctor won’t prescribe unnecessary medication. 

Varicose veins can be very painful if left untreated, so it’s important to visit a doctor once you suspect you’re having symptoms. 

Getting treatment can be a process of trial and error, and it may take a couple sessions to notice improvement. 


The treatment for varicose veins, though, does also provide relief for people who have restless leg syndrome. If it’s found that your restless leg syndrome has nothing to do with varicose veins, you still may be able to benefit from the treatment for this condition. 

Many people who have restless leg syndrome have reported getting relief from the treatment for varicose veins. 

Making an appointment with your doctor is going to be the first step is ensuring that you can get treatment so that you can get some relief from the aching and cramping of your legs. 

While the symptoms may progress over time, and the cramps and throbbing may get worse, having regular treatment and therapies can go a long way to minimizing the pain you experience. When the symptoms are less, you’re more likely to feel relaxed and have less stress which means that naturally your body may experience less severe symptoms. Restless leg syndrome gets worse when the body is stressed and tense, and so experiencing less symptoms via treatments means long-term relief!