What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless Leg Syndrome (also known as RLS) is a neurological condition in which the person suffering from it cannot stop moving their legs. To be more specific, here’s the summary of the disorder as shared on the ninds.nih.gov website’s page on the subject.
“Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them.”
One of the most unusual things about this disorder is the fact that it tends to manifest the strongest when you’re trying to lay down and rest. It can make falling and staying asleep pretty complicated, and can result in daytime fatigue and exhaustion if it disturbs your rest to an unhealthy degree.
RLS is technically a nervous system disorder, but it’s also considered a sleep disorder because it interferes with an individual’s quality of sleep. It can manifest itself as small, uncomfortable ‘itchy’ sensations, or sensations that aren’t unlike pins and needles. It can feel creepy-crawly, in a sense, and can simply make the act of sitting still unbearable.
People who suffer from the condition experience it in different levels. Some people have mild RLS, while others may suffer from an ‘intolerable’ version of the disorder. Symptoms also tend to be more intense in the evenings and at night.
What causes it?
Restless Leg Syndrome tends to go unrecognized most of the time – which means that it’s not diagnosed as often as it occurs. It’s far more common in people who are middle-aged or over, but it can afflict people in any age group.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes RLS – but they suspect that genes have something to do with it. Almost 50% of those who suffer from it, for example, have a family member who suffers from it as well.
Of course, the exact cause of the disorder is still unknown – but doctors have identified a number of other factors that may contribute to it. People with chronic diseases like Parkinson’s, kidney failure, diabetes, or an iron deficiency are far more likely to develop RLS than other people.
Some types of medications can also make you more prone to suffering from the condition. Some women also experience a temporary bout of RLS while pregnant. It’s also been shown that removing alcohol from your diet can decrease your chances of developing RLS or suffering from it at some point.
Getting treated for the disorder will basically consist of trying to find a way to ease the symptoms. Some simple lifestyle changes can often make a big difference in people who suffer from a mild to moderate version of it. Some of these lifestyle changes may include exercising regularly, adopting regular sleeping patterns, cutting back on caffeine, and reducing your intake of alcohol and tobacco.
Leg massages and hot baths can also help to soothe the symptoms. There are some medications that might be prescribed for it, but they tend to work differently for different people. Finding the right drug for someone with Restless Leg Syndrome can be difficult, because some drugs that often help can also make the symptoms worse in some people.
It really depends on the person, and finding a medication can require a bit of trial and error. Some types of medicines that are typically used to treat RLS include dopaminergic drugs, narcotic pain relievers, anticonvulsants, and benzodiazepines.
There is currently no cure for RLS, but people who treat the symptoms successfully can generally manage it and live a full, healthy, and happy life with little to no complication.
If you feel that you might have RLS, or know a family member who seems to show some symptoms, you might want to talk to your doctor about it. Odds are good that treatment can help to ease the symptoms – especially if it’s intolerable or extreme and tends to impact their quality of sleep.