Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a condition that causes an irresistible and overwhelming urge to move your legs. The sensations get aggravated by rest and alleviated by movement. Although this condition is serious, it is totally curable. RLS is characterized by:
• Semi-rhythmic leg movements during sleep: This is also referred to as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which develops in about four out of five patients suffering from RLS.
• Nocturnal movements: The symptoms associated with RLS will worsen shortly after midnight and vanish by the time morning comes.
• Uncomfortable sensations: The feeling of tingling or searing below the skin often around the calves causes an overwhelming desire to move the legs. There may also be itching, cramping, and severe aching pain in the affected parts of your body.
Usually, the symptoms of RLS occur at night when the patients are most relaxed, particularly when their legs are at rest. Sometimes, when the condition is severe, symptoms might occur during the day while sitting. However, movement alleviates the symptoms.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and PLMD
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is commonly associated with RLS. It’s a condition that causes the leg muscles to contract and jerk within every twenty to forty seconds during sleep. These movements often last for more than one second or up to ten seconds.
Unlike restless legs syndrome, contractions resulting from PLMD often don’t cause sleep disturbances to patients, but a few people might be awakened by the leg movements.
Other Conditions Related to Restless Legs Syndrome
Several medical conditions are also linked to RLS, although their relationships aren’t clear. For some cases, such conditions might contribute to restless legs syndrome. Others could be having a common trigger or they might co-exist as a result of other risk factors such as:
- Varicose veins: this condition occurs in some patients with restless legs syndrome.
- Osteoarthritis or degenerative joint diseases: most patients with restless legs syndrome also experience osteoarthritis, which is a very common disorder affecting older people.
- Emphysema: this is a condition often triggered by cigarette smoking.
- Diabetes: people having type 2 diabetes are at great risk of developing secondary RLS. However, there's no further explanation on how diabetic neuropathy elevates a person's risk for RLS.
Other accompanying conditions for RLS:
- Chronic headaches
- Brain and spinal injuries
- Chronic alcoholism
- Sleep apnea and snoring
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in young children
- Certain muscle and nerve diseases, particularly ataxia. Several genetic diseases affecting the central nervous system trigger the loss of normal motor control.
- Psychiatric disorders like stress, anxiety, and depression
Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome
Treatments for RLS include over-the-counter prescriptions, iron supplements, or lifestyle changes, especially when an iron deficiency or anemia has been identified. Most often, prescription drugs provide significant relief of regular and severe symptoms.
Drugs used to treat RLS include non-opioids, dopaminergic substances, opioids agonists, anti-depressants, and hypnotics. Medicine is usually chosen based on the severity and duration of the symptoms. Long-term treatments with dopamine agonists can suppress response over time; hence, worsening the condition.
The symptoms associated with RLS often disappear naturally if the underlying condition is addressed exhaustively. However, if the real cause is unclear, the symptoms can sometimes get worse and severely interfere with the patient’s quality of life. Although it can lead to detrimental complications, restless legs syndrome isn’t fatal.
If you think that the symptoms you’re experiencing are related to RLS, be quick to seek medical assistance.