Learn How You May Help Break the Routine of Coping with RLS

adc-rls

You may think you’re managing to cope with your Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). You may even be getting treatment or taking medication for it. But the truth is, if you’re dealing with RLS  symptoms over and over, you’re stuck in a coping routine that’s affecting your life and changing your behavior.

RLS Isn’t Just About Your Legs

Studies have shown that RLS is actually a neurological condition that causes those unusual sensations in your legs. People with RLS describe the urge to move their legs in many different ways. Two common descriptions are a tingly-tightening sensation in the legs or a creepy-crawly feeling under the skin.

If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms, you know how frustrating RLS can be. Just when you’re about to relax, you feel uncomfortable sensations that give you the urge to move your legs. The symptoms can appear any time but most often occur in the evening or at night when you’re trying to rest. If you recognize these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor:

  • An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant leg sensations
  • Symptoms begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting
  • Symptoms are partially or totally relieved by movement, such as walking or stretching, at least as long as the activity continues.
  • Symptoms are worse or occur only in the evening or at night

Talk To Us

Only your doctor can diagnose RLS, so if you are experiencing the symptoms discussed above, we can help you find out for sure. It’s important for your doctor to know as much as possible when it comes to making a diagnosis, so be sure to:

  • Discuss the symptoms you’re having
  • Tell your doctor about your medical history, and if anyone in your family has RLS
  • Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter and prescription, as well as any herbal or vitamin supplements.

Treatment Options

There are two types of RLS: primary RLS, a chronic condition that can be hereditary, and secondary RLS, which is caused by another condition (such as pregnancy or iron-deficiency) and may resolve once the underlying condition no longer exists. Only your doctor can diagnose the type of RLS you may have and provide appropriate treatment options.

Now that you know that RLS is a neurological condition, you should also know that there are treatment options that can help, including medications and non-medication options. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment.

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Coping With Restless Legs Syndrome: What Can Be Done

adc-restless-leg

You may think you’re managing to cope with your Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). You may even be getting treatment or taking medication for it. But the truth is, if you’re dealing with RLS  symptoms over and over, you’re stuck in a coping routine that’s affecting your life and changing your behavior.

RLS Isn’t Just About Your Legs

Studies have shown that RLS is actually a neurological condition that causes those unusual sensations in your legs. People with RLS describe the urge to move their legs in many different ways. Two common descriptions are a tingly-tightening sensation in the legs or a creepy-crawly feeling under the skin.

If you’ve ever experienced these symptoms, you know how frustrating RLS can be. Just when you’re about to relax, you feel uncomfortable sensations that give you the urge to move your legs. The symptoms can appear any time but most often occur in the evening or at night when you’re trying to rest. If you recognize these symptoms, discuss them with your doctor:

  • An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant leg sensations
  • Symptoms begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting
  • Symptoms are partially or totally relieved by movement, such as walking or stretching, at least as long as the activity continues.
  • Symptoms are worse or occur only in the evening or at night

Talk To Us

Only your doctor can diagnose RLS, so if you are experiencing the symptoms discussed above, we can help you find out for sure. It’s important for your doctor to know as much as possible when it comes to making a diagnosis, so be sure to:

  • Discuss the symptoms you’re having
  • Tell your doctor about your medical history, and if anyone in your family has RLS
  • Tell your doctor about any medications you’re taking, including over-the-counter and prescription, as well as any herbal or vitamin supplements.

Treatment Options

There are two types of RLS: primary RLS, a chronic condition that can be hereditary, and secondary RLS, which is caused by another condition (such as pregnancy or iron-deficiency) and may resolve once the underlying condition no longer exists. Only your doctor can diagnose the type of RLS you may have and provide appropriate treatment options.

Now that you know that RLS is a neurological condition, you should also know that there are treatment options that can help, including medications and non-medication options. Contact us if you have any questions or to set up an appointment. 

How Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Diagnosed and Treated?

​Information provided by the National Institute of Health​

Diagnosing RLS

There is no laboratory test that can make a diagnosis of RLS and, when someone with RLS goes to see a doctor, there is usually nothing abnormal the doctor can see or detect on examination. Diagnosis therefore depends on what a person describes to the doctor. The history usually includes a description of the typical leg sensations that lead to an urge to move the legs or walk. These sensations are noted to worsen when the legs are at rest, for example, when sitting or lying down and during the evening and night. The person with RLS may complain about trouble sleeping or daytime sleepiness. In some cases, the bed partner will complain about the person’s leg movements and jerking during the night.

ALSO: The Sleep Center at ADC can perform a Sleep Study to help with RLS victims.  Watch: The ADC Sleep Center

To help make a diagnosis, the doctor may ask about all current and past medical problems, family history, and current medications. A complete physical and neurological exam may help identify other conditions that may be associated with RLS, such as nerve damage (neuropathy or a pinched nerve) or abnormalities in the blood vessels. Basic laboratory tests may be done to assess general health and to rule out anemia. Further studies depend on initial findings. In some cases, a doctor may suggest an overnight sleep study to determine whether PLMS or other sleep problems are present. In most people with RLS, no new medical problem will be discovered during the physical exam or on any tests, except the sleep study, which will detect PLMS if present.

Treating RLS

In mild cases of RLS, some people find that activities such as taking a hot bath, massaging the legs, using a heating pad or ice pack, exercising, and eliminating caffeine help alleviate symptoms. In more severe cases, medications are prescribed to control symptoms. Unfortunately, no one drug is effective for everyone with RLS. Individuals respond differently to medications based on the severity of symptoms, other medical conditions, and other mediations being taken. A medication that is initially found to be effective may lose its effectiveness with nightly use; thus, it may be necessary to alternate between different categories of medication in order to keep symptoms under control.

Although many different drugs may help RLS, those most commonly used are found in the following three categories:

  • Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants that do not fully suppress RLS sensations or leg movements, but allow patients to obtain more sleep despite these problems. Some drugs in this group may result in daytime drowsiness. Benzodiazepines should not be used by people with sleep apnea.
  • Dopaminergic agents are drugs used to treat Parkinson’s disease and are also effective for many people with RLS and PLMS. These medications have been shown to reduce RLS symptoms, and nighttime leg movements.
  • Opioids are pain-killing and relaxing drugs that can suppress RLS and PLMS in some people. These medications can sometimes help people with severe, unrelenting symptoms.

Although there is some potential for benzodiazepines and opioids to become habit forming, this usually does not occur with the dosages given to most RLS patients.

A nondrug approach called transcutaneous electric nerve stimulations may improve symptoms in some RLS sufferes who also have PLMS. The electrical stimulation is applied to an area of the legs or feet, usually before bedtime, for 15 to 30 minutes. This approach has been shown to be helpful in reducing nighttime leg jerking.

Due to recent advances, doctors today have a variety of means for treating RLS. However, no perfect treatment exists and there is much more to be learned about the treatments that currently seem to be successful.

Facts About Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

​Information provided by the National Institute of Health​

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling or painful. These sensations usually occur in the calf area but may be felt anywhere from the thigh to the ankle. One or both legs may be affected; for some people, the sensations are also felt in the arms. These sensations occur when the person with RLS lies down or sits for prolonged periods of time, such as at a desk, riding in a car, or watching a movie. People with RLS describe an irresistable urge to move the legs when the sensations occur. Usually, moving the legs, walking, rubbing or massaging the legs, or doing knee bends can bring relief, at least briefly.

ALSO: The Sleep Center at ADC can perform a Sleep Study to help with RLS victims.  Watch: The ADC Sleep Center

RLS symptoms worsen during periods of relaxation and decreased activity. RLS symptoms also tend to follow a set daily cycle, with the evening and night hours being more troublesome for RLS sufferers than the morning hours. People with RLS may find it difficult to relax and fall asleep because of their strong urge to walk or do other activities to relieve the sensations in their legs. Persons with RLS often sleep best toward the end of the night or during the morning hours. Because of less sleep at night, people with RLS may feel sleepy during the day on an occasional or regular basis. The severity of symptoms varies from night to night and over the years as well. For some individuals, there may be periods when RLS does not cause problems, but the syumptoms usaully return. Other people may experience severe symptoms daily.

Many people with RLS also have a related sleep disorder called the periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS). PLMS is characterized by involuntary jerking or bending leg movements during sleep that typically occur every 10 to 60 seconds. Some people may experience hundred of such movements per night, which can wake them, disturb their sleep, and awaken bed partners. People who have RLS and PLMS have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep and may experience extreme sleepiness during the day. As a result of problems both in sleeping and while awake, people with RLS may have difficulties with their job, social life, and recreational activities.

Common Characteristics of Restless Legs Syndrome

Some common symptoms of RLS include:

  • Unpleasant sensations in the legs (sometimes the arms as well), often described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful;
  • Leg sensations are relieved by walking, stretching, knee bends, massage, or hot or cold baths;
  • Leg discomfort occurs when lying down or sitting for prolonged periods of time;
  • The symptoms are worse in the evening and during the night.

Other possible characteristics include:

  • Involuntary leg (and occassionally arm) movements while asleep;
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep;
  • Sleepiness or fatigue during the daytime;
  • Cause of the leg discomfort not detected by medical tests;
  • Family members with similar symptoms.

What Causes and Who Gets Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

​Information provided by the National Institute of Health​

What Causes RLS?

Although the cause us unknown in most cases, certain factors may be associated with RLS:

  • Family History. RLS is known to run in some families – parents may pass the condition on to their children.
  • Pregnancy. Some women experience RLS during pregnancy, especially in the last months. The symptoms usually disappear after delivery.
  • Low Iron Levels or Anemia. Persons with these conditions may be prone to developing RLS. The symptoms may improve once the iron level or anemia is corrected.
  • Chronic Diseases. Kidney failure quite often leads to RLS. Other chronic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and peripheral neuropathy may also be associated with RLS.
  • Caffeine intake. Decreasing caffeine consumption may improve symptoms.

ALSO: The Sleep Center at ADC can perform a Sleep Study to help with RLS victims.  Watch: The ADC Sleep Center

Who Gets RLS?

RLS occurs in both sexes. Symptoms can begin any time, but are usually more common and more severe among older people. Young people who experience symptoms of RLS are sometimes thought to have “growing pains” or may be considered “hyperactive” because they cannot easily sit still in school.

On Restless Leg Syndrome (Series: Pt .2)

Gary Polk, M.D.

Gary Polk, M.D.

The Role of Genes, Family History and Gender

RLS symptoms are not rare; it is one of the most common movement disorders. Some authors feel that after obstructive sleep apnea, RLS may be the most significant sleep disorder (4). In one circadian study as many as 15% of those surveyed had noted “restlessness of the legs”.

One interesting finding of the survey was that French Canadians had a higher frequency of symptoms compared to Canadians of English descent, indicating a potential genetic role in RLS. Large numbers of patience with RLS symptoms have a positive family history of RLS as well.

Although no specific gene abnormality has been found as a cause of RLS, patients with familial RLS (as compared to sporadic RLS) have an earlier onset and severity of symptoms. Overall it is estimated that the prevalence of RLS is 5-10% of the population. Additionally, there does appear to be an increased frequency in women compared to men by a 2 to 1 margin.

Impact On Quality of Life

RLS can have a significant negative impact on the quality of life. Quality of life surveys often show a decreasein vitality, physical functioning and general health in RLS sufferers compared to the general population. Other quality of life parameters negatively affected include social functioning and mental health. The disturbances caused by RLS were similar to other chronic medical conditions such as hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and osteoarthritis.

Poor Sleep

RLS sufferers often complain of poor or restless sleep. Many patients have marked difficult falling asleep at night due to leg discomoft. They also appear to have an increased frequency of awakenings during the night. Patients with RLS tend to spend more time awake during the night than the general population. Also about 80% of RLS patients have associated stereotypical leg movements, known as periodic limb movements of sleep that can disturb their sleep or the sleep of their bed partners.

On Restless Leg Syndrome (Series: Pt .1)

This blog post series features segmented parts of the article titled “Restless Leg Syndrome”, by Gary Polk, M.D. published in Panhandle Health, Winter 2012
Gary Polk, M.D.

Gary Polk, M.D., Amarillo Diagnostic Clinic P.A.

The Problem of RLS

“What’s the matter with you? Can’t you sit still? Quit wiggling your feet and relax!”

Maybe you’ve heard these words before and wanted to comply but couldn’t. A common disorder known as the Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) may be the culprit.

The symptoms of RLS had been noted in the medical literature for centuries, but the clinical syndrome was first characterized by Ekbom in 1945. There are several complaints that make up the RLS symptom complex. The first is an urge to move due to an uncomfortable feeling while at rest. Terms used to describe the sensation are jittery, creepy crawly, internal itching or shock-like feelings. Many patiences describe the feeling as being painful. Other parts of the body can be affected, predominantly the arms.

A second characteristic associated with RLS is that the symptoms worsen if the person is required to remain still. People with RLS typically dread certain situations such as traveling long distances in a car or an airplane. Sitting in meetings or church services can be extremely difficult. The urge to move and the unpleasant leg sensations are relieved by activity. Often walking around is required but sometimes symptoms can be relieved by stretching of the legs or calf muscles or even wiggling the feet back and forth. A person may begin to experience relief immediately upon movement, but often the relief of the symptoms is temporary with the patient remaining symptom free for 30 to 60 minutes only.

Worsening in the Evening

A cardinal feature of RLS is that the symptoms worsen in the evening. Several factors may be involved including less activity in the evening with less commotion to distract the sufferer from their symptoms. There may also be a circadian rhythm to the symptoms of RLS. Studies have shown that the severity of leg discomfort does follow a circadian pattern with worsening of symptoms after midnight. An increase in the production of melatonin preceded the increase in symptoms, and a relationship between melatonin production and RLS symptoms has been proposed.