Healthy Living

Is Restless Legs Syndrome Chronic?

Restless Legs Syndrome Chronic

Is Restless Legs Syndrome Chronic?

Key Takeaways

• Disturbances while sleeping.
Fatigue that usually occurs during the day.
• Involuntary jerking and repetitive movements of the limbs, which can occur while you're sleeping, awake, or at rest.

Restless legs syndrome is not chronic. RLS is a neurological movement disorder of the limbs. It is usually associated with sleep disruptions. Patients with RLS will usually report strange sensations, such as an urge to move their leg. This can become very bothersome, which can lead to physical as well as emotional disability.

Chronic Restless Legs Syndrome: The Symptoms

At first, you will usually feel an urge to move your leg, which tends to occur at night. This unusual feeling will worsen when you’re at rest or inactive. The symptoms usually occur at least three times a week and may persist for at least three months. RLS symptoms also cause a significant distress affecting your social, occupational, academic, and behavioral activities.

The symptoms of restless legs syndrome can become worse if you are suffering from neurological or certain health disorders, such as leg cramps and leg arthritis. They can also be triggered by behavioral conditions such as positional discomfort and habitual foot tapping. Other symptoms include:

How is restless legs syndrome diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you are suffering from restless legs syndrome, he/she will test you for iron deficiency. He/she will obtain a blood sample to check your ferritin level. Your doctor will also establish the following before having a diagnosis:

• Iron levels
• Percentage of transferrin saturation
• Total iron-binding capacity of your blood

Additional laboratory tests that may be requested by your doctor:

• Blood urea nitrogen (BUN) Test
• Creatinine Blood Test
• Fasting Blood Glucose Test 
• Magnesium Testing
• Thyroid-stimulating Hormone Test
• Vitamin B-12 Test
• Folate Test

Restless Legs Syndrome: How to Manage the Condition?

For patients having mild or sporadic RLS symptoms, treatment may be unnecessary. However, specific symptoms of patients may be addressed using pharmacotherapy and nonpharmacologic measures. The following are the therapies you can use to manage RLS:

1. Pharmacologic therapy

Pharmacologic treatments are considered if patients suffer from RLS symptoms for a minimum of three nights per week. Treatment includes using:

  • Dopaminergic agents (e.g. pramipexole, ropinirole, bromocriptine, levodopa-carbidopa, and rotigotine)
  • Benzodiazepines drugs (e.g. clonazepam)
  • Opioids such as codeine
  • Anticonvulsants drugs like gabapentin
  • Presynaptic alpha 2 -adrenergic agonists (e.g. clonidine)
  • Iron salt 

2. Nonpharmacologic treatment

Your doctor will also recommend nonpharmacologic treatments, which usually involve adopting sleep hygiene measures. Other treatments include:

  • Caffeine and alcohol limitations
  • Terminating medications that could trigger RLS (e.g. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs], diphenhydramine, and dopamine antagonists)
  • Quitting smoking and avoiding other nicotine products
  • Exercising
  • Doing physical modalities before going to bed (e.g. a hot or cold bath, whirlpool bath, a limb massage, or vibratory or electrical stimulation of your feet/toes)

You can also try over-the-counter drugs. However, you should first talk to your doctor before trying them. Your doctor should also check your medical history to determine the best drugs to alleviate the symptoms of RLS.