Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological sleep disorder that causes a person to have an overwhelming urge to move their legs. It makes it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. Sometimes, restless legs syndrome can even cause pain. Leg pain caused by restless leg syndrome is often more noticeable when a person’s legs are at rest and can be eased by moving the legs. Symptoms caused by restless legs syndrome sometimes worsen at night.  Many people do not consider restless legs syndrome to be serious enough to warrant treatment, but if left alone the symptoms can become more frequent and severe.

Restless Legs Syndrome can disrupt a person’s sleep leaving them tired during the day, causing irritation and affecting concentration and reducing overall quality of life. People with restless legs syndrome are also more likely to have depression or anxiety.

Restless legs syndrome can often be managed through medication and some lifestyle changes.

Most people develop restless legs syndrome after the age 45 with women being almost twice as likely to develop the disorder. That doesn’t mean children are not affected.  Those with a family history of restless legs syndrome may be as high as six times more likely to develop it as those with no family history of the disorder.

Causes and Symptoms

The cause of Restless Legs Syndrome varies from person to person. In many cases the exact cause is unknown however other health conditions can make it worse. Iron deficiency in the blood can lead to a drop in dopamine, triggering restless legs syndrome. Diabetes is a chronic long term health condition that can damage blood vessels and nerves that affect leg muscles causing restless legs syndrome. Women sometimes develop restless legs syndrome during pregnancy and this can last until the last month of pregnancy. Some medications, such as antidepressants, allergy medication or sleep aids can also cause or worsen restless legs syndrome. Other factors, including alcohol use and sleep deprivation, may trigger symptoms or make them worse. Improving sleep or eliminating alcohol use in these cases may relieve symptoms

Restless Legs Syndrome is sometimes described as a “creeping,” “itchy,” or “throbbing” sensation accompanied by an urge to move the legs. The urge to move the legs usually worsens when laying down to rest. If you have difficulty falling asleep or frequently wake up due to restlessness in your legs you may have Restless legs syndrome or RLS.

Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome can vary from person to person. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms associated with restless legs syndrome one of our certified sleep care specialists can help assess your symptoms.

Treatment

Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome is generally aimed at easing its symptoms. In people with mild to moderate restless legs syndrome lifestyle changes such as an increase in physical activities (such as walking), establishing regular sleep patterns, and reducing the use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco, may be helpful.

Stress can worsen restless legs syndrome. Activities that promote relaxation, such as yoga, meditation or other techniques, can reduce symptoms.  Massages or hot baths may also help alleviate the symptoms. The above mentioned can help relax your muscles and alleviate the symptoms of restless legs syndrome if only for the short term. It is important to talk to a Registered Sleep Technologist and your Doctor.

Medication

Medication may be prescribed to treat restless legs syndrome. Medication for restless legs syndrome is not a one-size-fits-all solution and so a variety of medications are considered, including hypnotics, anti-seizure medication, and a variety of other medications including Iron. A drug that relieves symptoms in one person may worsen them in another so be certain to mention any side-effect to your sleep care specialist or family physician.

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