Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS is a neurological disorder.
This condition is also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease or RLS/WED.
It is important to note that RLS causes unpleasant sensations in your legs, along with a powerful urge to move them.
Moreover, this urge is more intense when you are relaxed or trying to sleep.
The most serious concern in people with RLS is that it often interferes with sleep, causing daytime sleepiness and fatigue.
Furthermore, RLS and sleep deprivation can also put you at risk of other health problems like depression if you do not get treatment.
One of the important things to note is that RLS affects about 10% of Americans according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
It can occur at any age, though it is more serve in middle age or late.
Additionally, women are more likely to develop RLS than men.
Keep on reading to learn more about it in detail.
Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
One of the major symptoms of restless leg syndrome is an overwhelming urge to move your legs.
This is especially when you are sitting still or lying in bed.
Moreover, you might feel unusual sensations like tingling, crawling, or pulling sensations in your legs.
Movement may relieve these sensations. In case you have mild RLS, symptoms may not occur every night.
Furthermore, you may attribute these movements to restlessness, nervousness, or stress.
On the other hand, a severe case of RLS is often challenging to ignore.
It can complicate even the simplest activities like performing outdoor activities.
A long plane ride can also be difficult with this condition.
People with RLS are more likely to have trouble falling asleep, or even staying asleep because their symptoms tend to worsen at night.
Daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and sleep deprivation can harm both, your physical and mental health.
Symptoms often affect both sides of your body, however, some individuals have them on one side of the body alone.
In the case of mild cases, symptoms may come and go.
RLS can also affect other parts of your body, including your arms, and head.
For most people with RLS, the symptoms may also worsen with age.
To relieve the symptoms, you will often use movement.
This means pacing the floor or tossing and turning in the bed.
If you sleep with a partner, it will be disturbing their sleep as well.
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Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome, RLS
The causes of RLS are unknown, and there may be a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger.
More than 40% of the individuals with RLS have some family history of this condition.
In fact, there are 5 gene variants that are associated with the cause of RLS.
When it runs in the family, the symptoms often start before the age of 40.
Moreover, there may be a connection between RLS and low levels of iron in your brain.
This could be even your blood tests show that your iron levels are normal.
Furthermore, RLS may also be linked to changes in the dopamine pathways in your brain.
Parkinson’s disease is also related to dopamine.
This may explain why people with Parkinson’s also have restless leg syndrome.
Some of the same medications can help to treat both of these conditions.
However, research on the use of such medications is still ongoing.
It is also possible that certain substances like caffeine or alcohol can trigger or intensify the symptoms of RLS.
Other potential causes can be:
One of the important things to note is that Primary RLS is not related to an underlying condition.
However, RLS can be an offshoot of another health issue like neuropathy, diabetes, or kidney failure.
When such is the case, treating the main condition can help resolve RLS.
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Risk Factors for Restless Leg Syndrome
Certain things that may put you at a higher risk for RLS are as follows, however, it is uncertain if any of these actually causes it:
Gender: Women are two times more likely to get RLS than men.
Age: Though you can get restless leg syndrome at any age, it is more common and severe after middle age.
History: If you have a family history of RLS, you are more likely to develop it.
Pregnancy: Some females may develop RLS during pregnancy particularly in the last trimester.
This often resolves within weeks of delivery.
Chronic Diseases: Conditions like peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and kidney failure may lead to RLS.
Moreover, treating the condition can resolve symptoms of RLS.
Medications: Certain medications like antinausea, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antihistamines can trigger or aggravate symptoms of RLD.
Ethnicity: Anyone can develop this condition, however, it is more common in individuals of Northern European descent.
It is important to note that restless leg syndrome can affect your overall health and quality of life.
Thus, if you have RLS and chronic sleep deprivation, you may be at a higher risk of:
Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, kidney disease, depression, and early death.
Diagnosis of Restless Leg Syndrome
There is no single test that can help to confirm or rule or RLS.
A large part of diagnosis is based on your description of symptoms you experience.
To diagnose RLS, the following must be present:
An overwhelming urge to move accompanied by strange sensations.
Symptoms that worsen at night or are absent in the early part of the day.
Sensory symptoms are triggered when you try to relax or sleep, and sensory symptoms that ease up when you move.
Even if you meet the criteria, you will need a physical examination.
Your doctor will want to check for other neurological reasons for your symptoms.
Moreover, make sure to provide information about the OTC and prescription medication and supplements you are taking.
Also, tell your doctor if you have any chronic health conditions.
Blood tests can help check for iron and other deficiencies or abnormalities.
If there is any sign that something other than RLS is causing your symptoms, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist, neurologist, or other specialists.
Furthermore, it may be harder to diagnose RLS in children who are unable to describe their symptoms.
Medications for Restless Leg Syndrome
Medications cannot help to cure RLS, however, they can help to manage the symptoms.
Some of the options are:
Drugs that increase Dopamine or Dopaminergic Agents
These medications can help to decrease motion in your legs.
Options are pramipexole, ripinirole, rotigotine.
Side effects can include mild lightheadedness and nausea.
These medications can also become less effective over time and in some cases, they may also cause daytime sleepiness, impulse control disorders, and worsening of the symptoms of RLS.
Sleep Aids and Muscle Relaxants
These medications will not eliminate your symptoms, however, they can help you relax and sleep better.
Drugs in this group are:
However, the side effects include daytime sleepiness.
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Other options for RLS are:
Narcotics or Opioids
These medications can decrease pain and strange sensations and help you relax.
Codeine, oxycodone, combined hydrocodone, and acetaminophen, or combined oxycodone and acetaminophen are drugs in this group.
Side effects of these medications are dizziness and nausea.
Moreover, make sure to not use these medications if you have sleep apnea as they are powerful and addicting.
The medications can help to decrease sensory disturbances.
Gabapentin, gabapentin enacarbil, and pregbalin are drugs in this group.
While the side effects of this condition are dizziness and fatigue.
It can take several attempts before you find the right medication for RLS.
Your doctor will also adjust the medication and dosage as your symptoms change.
Home Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome
While it is unlikely to completely eliminate the symptoms of RLS, however, some home remedies can help to reduce them.
It may take some trial and error to find the remedies that are most helpful.
The following are some you can try:
Reduce or eliminate your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
Try to strive for a regular sleep schedule with the same bedtime and wake-up time every day of the week.
Get some exercise, like walking or swimming.
Massage or stretch your leg muscles in the evening.
Soak in a hot bath before bed, use a heating pad or ice pack in case you experience symptoms.
Moreover, you can also practice yoga or meditation to relieve symptoms.
However, if you are scheduling things that need prolong sitting like using a car or plane trip, try to arrange for earlier in the day rather than later.
In case you have an iron or other nutritional deficiencies, ask your doctor or nutritionist about ways to improve your diet.
Talk to them before adding any dietary supplements as in some cases, it can be harmful to take certain supplements.
These options may be useful even f you take medications to manage RLS.
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RLS in Children
Children can also experience tingling and pulling sensations in their legs just like you can.
However, they may have a hard time describing them and they might call them”creepy-crawly” feelings.
Children with RLS can also have an overwhelming urge to move their legs and are more likely to have symptoms during the ay.
Moreover, RLS can interfere with their sleep which in turn can affect every aspect of their life.
Your child may also seem inattentive, irritable, or fidgety.
In some cases, they may be labeled disruptive or hyperactive.
Thus, diagnosing and treating RLS can help to address these problems and improve school performance.
In order to diagnose RLS in children up to age 12, the adult criteria must be:
- an overwhelming urge to move, usually accompanied by a strange sensation
- symptoms that worsen at night
- symptoms are triggered when your child tries to relax or sleep
- certain symptoms that ease up when then child moves
Otherwise, two of the following must be true in the case of your child with RLS:
- There’s a clinical sleep disturbance for age.
- A biological parent or sibling had RLS.
- sleep study confirms a periodic limb movement index of five or more per hour of sleep.
On the other hand, if your child has dietary deficiencies then you need to address them.
Children with RLS should also avoid caffeine and develop good bedtime habits.
However, if necessary, then medications that affect dopamine, benzodiazepines, and anticonvulsants can help.
RLS and Sleep
The strange sensation in your legs can be uncomfortable or painful and can also make it impossible to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Sleep deprivation and fatigue are dangerous to both your health and well-being.
In addition to working with your doctor to find relief, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of restful sleep:
Inspect your mattress and pillows and if they are old and lumpy, it is time to replace them.
Moreover, it is worth investing in comfortable sheets, blankets, and PJs.
Make sure that the window shades or curtains block outside light.
Remove all the digital devices, including clocks, away from your bed.
Remove bedroom clutter, keep the temperature on the cool side in your bedroom.
Put yourself on a sleep schedule and try to go to bed at the time each night and get up at the same time every morning.
It will help support your natural sleep rhythm.
Furthermore, stop using electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime.
Just before your bedtime massage your legs or take a hot bath or shower.
Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs as it might help to prevent your nerves from compressing and triggering symptoms.
RLS and Pregnancy
Symptoms of RLS can come up for the first time during pregnancy often in the last trimester.
Data suggests that pregnant women may have a 2 to 3 times higher risk of RLS.
Moreover, the reasons are not well understood, while some possibilities are vitamin or mineral deficiencies. hormonal changes, or nerve compression.
Furthermore, pregnancy can also cause leg cramps and difficulty sleeping.
These symptoms can be hard t differentiate from RLS.
Thus, if you are conceiving and have symptoms of RLS, talk to your doctor.
They may order blood tests to check the levels of iron and other deficiencies.
On the other hand, you can try the following home remedies:
Avoid sitting for long periods of time, especially in the evening.
Try to get a little exercise every day, even if it is just an afternoon walk.
You can use heat or cold compress on your legs when they are bothering you.
Massage your legs or perform leg stretching exercises before bed, a regular sleep schedule can also help.
Avoid using antihistamines, caffeine, smoking, and alcohol, and make sure to get all the nutrients you need from your diet or prenatal vitamins.
It is important to note that some medications for the treatment of RLS are not safe to use during pregnancy.
If the symptoms of RLS go away on their own within a few weeks after giving birth, you do not need to worry.
However, if they don’t. see your doctor about other remedies and make sure to mention that you are breastfeeding.
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Restless arm, body, and other related conditions
This condition is called restless “leg” syndrome, however, it can also affect other parts of your body.
These can be arms, trunks, or head.
Both sides of your body are often involved, however, in some cases, it can affect only one side.
Despite these differences, it is the same disorder.
About 80% of the individuals have periodic limb movement of sleep, PLMS.
This causes involuntary leg twitching or jerking during sleep that can last all night long.
Moreover, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and kidney failure cause symptoms like RLS.
Thus, treating these underlying conditions can also help.
Furthermore, if you have Parkinson’s then you may also have RLS.
However, in most cases, it is not necessary for Parkinson’s if you have RLS.
The same medications, however, can help to improve your symptoms in case of both conditions.
It is not uncommon with MS or multiple sclerosis to have sleep disturbances, including restless legs, limbs, and body.
They are also prone to muscle spasms and cramps.
Medications to fight fatigue associated with chronic conditions can also cause this.
It is important to note that anyone can have leg cramps or strange sensations that come and go occasionally.
However, when they interfere with your sleep, visit your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
Dietary Recommendations for Restless Leg Syndrome
There are no specifications for diet if you have RLS, however, it is a good idea to review your diet to make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals.
Moreover, try to cut back on HGH calories processed foods with little or no nutritional value.
In some cases, symptoms of RLS are due to certain vitamins and minerals.
If that is the case you can make certain changes to your diet or use dietary supplements.
It all depends on what your test results show,
Furthermore, if you are deficient in iron, then try to add more iron-rich foods to your diet.
These are dark green leafy vegetables, peas, dried fruit, red meat and pork, poultry, and seafood.
You can also add fortified foods like cereals, pasta, and bread to your diet.
Additionally, vitamin C helps your body to absorb iron, thus, you might also want to pair the above foods with the following sources of vitamin C:
- citrus juices
- grapefruit, oranges, tangerines, strawberries, kiwi, melons
- tomatoes, peppers
- broccoli, leafy greens
However, caffeine can be tricky and can trigger the symptoms of RLS.
It is worth a little experiment to see if caffeine affects your symptoms or not.
Moreover, alcohol can make RLS worse, and also disrupt your sleep.
Make sure to avoid them, especially in the evening.
Restless leg syndrome is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs and can even become an uncomfortable sensation.
It can take place at night or in the evening when you are sitting or lying down. Thus, moving can ease the unpleasant feeling temporarily.