Restless Leg Syndrome


What is Restless Leg Syndrome ?

Restless leg syndrome is a medical condition characterized by discomforting sensations on the legs, forcing the affected individual to move around. People with the disease feel unpleasant sensations on the calf area while their legs are resting or lying in bed. The syndrome is also considered a type of sleep disorder because it disrupts sleep.

The restless syndrome worsens with age. Treatment is available to relieve the symptoms that accompany the disease and is tailored to the need of the patient depending on the type and severity of the condition.

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Causes of Restless leg Syndrome

The root cause of this sleeping and neurological disorder remains unclear, but experts believe that the imbalance of dopamine is the culprit. Dopamine is a chemical released by the brain which delivers messages to regulate muscle movements. Restless leg syndrome may occur due to:

  • Certain medical conditions

Some health issues can either instigate or worsen Restless leg syndrome, and examples of these are iron deficiency, peripheral neuropathy and renal failure.

  • Genetics

RLS may also be inherited as statistics show that around 50% of the cases have RLS running in the family.

  • Pregnancy

Raging hormones during pregnancy might likewise trigger or worsen RLS, though the accompanying symptoms often disappear after childbirth.

Occurrence of Restless leg Syndrome

Anyone can get RLS, regardless of age and gender. However, statistics have shown that the disorder is quite common among women than men. People suffering from severe medical conditions, especially the older ones will likely suffer from RLS too. Those with a family history of RLS may exhibit the symptoms at an earlier age.

Symptoms of Restless leg Syndrome  

The symptoms of Restless leg syndrome differ from one person to another, depending on the severity of the condition. Those affected describe the symptoms as an uncomfortable and creepy crawly sensation in the legs especially when resting, either in a lying or sitting position. It is also itchy, as if the legs are pricked with needles. The RLS symptoms may disappear quickly upon activity. Sufferers also find that the symptoms get worse at night, causing stress and sleep deprivation. People with RLS should visit the doctor if the disorder severely disrupts their sleep, thus, impairing the quality of life.

Diagnosis of Restless leg syndrome

Establishing Restless syndrome involves conducting myriad of diagnostic tests to rule out other medical conditions as there is no specific medical test available to diagnose RLS. Blood tests and nerve/muscle studies might be conducted to discount the other possibilities that might cause the symptoms. The patient’s family and medical history, including the medications taken, might also be considered. The doctor will compare the findings with the criteria set by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group to confirm the RLS diagnosis, which include:

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  • Symptoms get worse during nighttime.
  • Symptoms are improved once activity or movement is commenced.
  • Symptoms get worse while resting, lying or sitting.
  • Strong and overpowering impulse to move around characterized by itching, pulling or tingling sensations.

Treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome

The treatment for Restless syndrome helps the patient live normally by decreasing the severity of the symptoms, thereby improving sleep. RLS treatment involves addressing the symptoms as well as the related medical conditions, so the method differs between patients. These methods may include:

  • Taking supplements to address nutritional deficiency.
  • Engaging in regular exercise to promote regular sleeping patterns.
  • Limiting or completely avoiding alcohol, caffeinated drinks and tobacco.
  • Applying heating pads on the legs or having hot baths.
  • Spending time on leg massages.
  • Taking appropriate medications to relieve the symptoms.

Patients should avoid taking medications without the doctor’s supervision as these may worsen the condition. People have different responses to these medications, and in some cases, their effectiveness may expire over time.

Coping with Restless syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a chronic medical condition that requires lifelong management. The patient should work closely with his/her doctor to develop an effective management plan that works specifically for him/her. The following things can be done to help patients live with restless syndrome.

  • Joining support groups

The patient will be better equipped in coping with his/her condition when he/she learns how others live with the disease by joining RLS support groups. This is also a great opportunity for the patient to help others and family members understand the condition.

  • Making a sleep memoir

A sleep memoir will help both the patient and the doctor learn about the factors and medications that trigger or help in treating the disorder.

  • Talking about RLS

Telling others about RLS help colleagues, friends and family members understand the condition.

  • Regular exercise

This may be gentle massages or some form of stretching exercises to help cope with the condition.

  • Concede the urge to move

Moving around helps alleviate the symptoms, so patients should not resist the urge to move.

Restless syndrome may be a dreadful sleeping disorder but it can be managed and treated successfully if proper diagnosis is achieved.

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