Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a disorder in which there is an urge or need to move the legs to stop unpleasant sensations. It is very uncomfortable while you are sitting or lying down, then you have the urge to get up and move.
Restless Leg Syndrome Facts
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can begin at any age, and it usually worsens as you grow older. It is estimated that 10% of the population has RLS, and women are affected more often than men.
It typically starts off slowly and increases through the years with the greatest number of people affected being over 65. It can interfere with your sleep, so sleep disorders are common with this disease. It can make traveling difficult or sitting through a movie or play. Typically symptoms are worse in the evening
Symptoms of Restless Leg Symptoms
The commonly described symptoms of restless legs are tingling, cramping, crawling, creeping, pulling, painful, electric, tense, uncomfortable, itchy, tugging, gnawing, aching and burning. This is quite a list! Some people refer to this disease as nervous leg syndrome. People perceive discomfort in different ways, but all of these descriptions are from people with RLS.
The symptoms start especially when you are not active, when you have been sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. Movement gives some relief. There are a number of ways that people try to stop the sensation, such as stretching, jiggling their legs, pacing the floor, exercising or walking.
Restless leg syndrome
Periodic Limb Movement
There is another medical condition called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), which may be associated with restless leg syndrome. This other condition causes flexing and extending your legs while sleeping, and you are not aware. However, if you sleep with someone else they would probably become aware of this continual movement.
If you have a severe cause of this disease you will do involuntary kicking movements while you are awake. PLMS is common in older adults and more than 4 out of 5 people with RLS also have experienced PLMS. Caffeine, alcohol and tobacco may aggravate the symptoms.
Possible Causes of RLS
Most people with RLS never get any medical treatment, as they really don’t want to go to the doctor and try to explain their problem, or they fear they won’t be taken seriously. Some doctors may attribute these symptoms to nervousness or stress.
There is no known cause but researchers think it may be due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, with the brain’s chemical dopamine. It does tend to run in families.
Pregnancy and hormonal changes can worsen the symptoms as well. Peripheral neuropathy which is damage to the peripheral nerves in the feet can cause RLS, and this is due to diabetes or alcoholism. Iron deficiency can also worsen the symptoms, and kidney failure is also a causative factor. Other possible causes are obesity, smoking or a nerve disease that is associated with hypothyroidism. Toxicity due to heavy metals may also cause the disease.
Possible Underlying Causes
There are some medical conditions that treatment may also cure restless leg syndrome if they are left untreated. They include anemia, diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease, Parkinson disease, nutritional deficiencies and varicose veins.
Sometimes treatment of this medical condition will relieve restless leg syndrome symptoms.
Certain medications may also worsen, such as: Benadryl, Reglan, Compro, haloperidol (Haldol) or olanzapine (Zyprexa), Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft, Elavil or amoxapine (Asendin), tramadol (Ultram) and levothyroxine.
Restless Legs Syndrome Evidenced Based Treatment
Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment
The treatment for restless leg syndrome is first directed at any possible underlying illness.
- Stopping smoking and exercise will help provide relief.
- These are some of the medications for restless legs:
- Opioids (propoxyphene) or tramadol (Ultram)
- Clonazepam, diazepam (Valium), triazolam, temazepam, (muscle relaxers)
- Bromocriptine and clonidine
- Gabapentin (Neurontin) recently has been found helpful
- FDA newly approved for RLS ropinirole (Requip) and pramipexole (Mirapex)
Other helpful restless leg syndrome treatments are avoiding caffeine, warm/cold baths, electric nerve stimulation, oral magnesium and acupuncture
To summarize, RLS is a leg disorder that is painful and unpleasant. It frequently leads to insomnia. and the cause is really not known. Treatment first looks at any other possible underlying diseases that may be causing this problem. There is medication available to give you relief.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.