What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

ADC SDC

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) occurs in people who are otherwise healthy. It can reduce sleep quality, daytime functioning and overall quality of life. Although it affect mostly the legs, as the name suggests, it can also affect the arms, trunk or multiple body parts at the same time.

People experience restless legs in may different ways. Everyone describes unpleasant “creepy, crawly” sensations in the legs when they are sitting or lying still, especially at bedtime. If you have RLS you know it is not the same as the pain experienced from a leg cramp, or the numbness someone feels if a leg “falls asleep.” RLS sensations are also different from the “pins and needles” or the burning feeling a person with diabetic neuropathy may experience. The uncomfortable feelings happen most often in the calves and are eased for a while by stretching or moving the legs.

In some cases, RLS can be painful, or disturbing enough to cause insomnia. The constant need to rub or move the legs to get rid of the painful sensations often prevents a person with RLS from falling asleep. As a result, the person may be extremely tired during hte day and unable to perform well at work or take part in social activities.

Sleepiness is not the only daytime problem you might experience if you have RLS. During hte day, RLS can reduce your ability to travel by car, airplane or any other kind of transportation requiring you to sit still for long periods of time. RLS may disturb your ability to sit still in class, at lectures, movies, concerts, and in business meetings. As a result, RLS symptoms can often lead to anxiety and depression.

How common is RLS?

Seven to 10 of every 100 people experience the discomfort of rLS at some time in their lives. Approximately 2 out of 5 of every 100 people have symptoms sever enough to require medical attention. :The disorder is more common in women and older individuals, but can occur at any ate in both men and women. RLS can also be sever during pregnancy, especially during the last 6 months. Over the years, RLS may come and go without any reason.

What causes RLS?

About 30% of RLS cases have hereditary cause. This means that in 3 cases out of 10, the disorder has been passed through the genes of either the father or mother to the child. The causes of the other 70% of RLS cases are not clearly known. When RLS appears to run in families, the symptoms are more likely to begin early in life (before the age of 45) and to be associated with anemia or iron deficiency.

RLS is linked to a variety of other problems. These include: iron deficiency anemia, nerve problems, muscle disorders, kidney disorders, alcoholism, rheumatologic disorders and vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Other things that may trigger RLS are stopping or starting certain mediations, smoking, fatigue and sleep deprivation.

How is RLS diagnosed?

Before treating, your healthcare professional needs to be certain you have RLS. You man need to see a sleep specialist. RLS is a diagnosis made based on the presence of a unique set of symptoms. The diagnosis must be made carefully so as not to be confused with other common conditions. Some words used to describe these symptoms include creepy, crawly, pulling an gnawing. These feelings create an almost irresistible need to move the legs.

RLS gets better, briefly, when the leg is moved. The feelings are worse in the evenings than in the daytime. Your doctor will carefully review your medical history and preform a physical examination to be sure that you don’t have other problems that may be mistaken for RLS.

How is RLS treated?

The first step in treatment is to find out whether you have problems related to RLS, as opposed to Periodic Limb Movements Disorder (PLMD) or other ailments.

Home remedies may help some people with RLS. These remedies include: hot baths, leg massage, heat, ice backs, aspirin or other pain relievers, regular exercise, and avoiding caffeine.

When home remedies do not work, RLS can be treaded with prescription medications. A medication may help one RLS sufferer and not another. You may need to try several over a period of time. How well a drug works will depend on the severity of the condition, the patient’s other medical problems, and other medications that the patient is taking.

Learn more about RLS and schedule an appointment at ADC’s Sleep Disorder Center.

 

(Source: The American Academy of Sleep Medicine)

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