Restless Legs Syndrome
Many of us may not have heard of Restless Legs Syndrome ( RLS ). This disorder is quite common and it is responsible for loss of sleep or Insomnia for many people.
Main symptom is a recurrent, unpleasant, peculiar, creeping sensation in the legs, occasionally in the thighs, calf muscles or feet. A funny restless feeling in the shins and the calf muscles make sleep elusive. The discomfort is rarely a true pain and it worsens when we rest in the evening or at night. RLS sometimes last for a short period, sometimes hours, and is relieved by movement such as walking. It can however reappear after the patient returns to bed.
Restless Legs give rise to a sensation which is hard to describe. Some patients describe it as ache or pinpricks. Others have a crawling feeling like you have worms in your legs. Doctors often think it is simply a cramp or loss of blood flow in the legs. Some doctors think it may be a type of arthritis. In RLS you get instant relief when you move or walk, whereas in arthritis the pain does not go away on walking. An urge to move or walk comes by suddenly and this urge becomes uncontrollable, leading to risky night walking or even an urge to jump out of a moving vehicle.
Your need to move your legs are real but it is also temporary. The uneasy sensation soon goes away with walking. One should not harbor a fear that your RLS would worsen. When an urge to move comes, better keep your brain active with some task such as reading, or doing some job around the house. Keeping yourself occupied will help ease off the anxiety and reduce the symptoms of RLS.
The calves seem cold and clammy. A soak in a tub of warm water can help. Placing of hot water bags on the affected muscles will bring some relief. Also, placing two to three heavy woolen blankets on the legs will bring comfort by the sheer weight of the blankets on the leg muscles. Application of kerosene on the two legs without massage is known to relieve RLS to a great extent.
What triggers restlessness in the legs is not known. It is estimated that about 5% of the population throughout the world may be suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome in various degrees of intensity, from occasional discomfort to daily attacks. Most cases of RLS are seen in patients aged above sixty years.
Restless Legs Syndrome is usually inherited. It shows an autosomal dominant type of inheritance pattern. Males and females are equally affected. RLS keeps being passed on from one generation to the next as opposed to a recessive pattern where a particular disease will skip some generations only to return in the later generations.
One of the greatest problems suffered by RLS victims is the lack of a proper diagnosis. Too many doctors either do not acknowledge the existence of RLS or they fail to recognize the symptoms. Other doctors make all types of conclusions, such as hypochondria, stress, depression, allergies, muscle cramps or muscle tautness, and imaginary ills. More extensive studies need to be done for this medical condition so that a new light can be thrown on this robber of sleep which affects millions of people throughout the world.