Understanding Restless Leg Syndrome


restless leg syndrome symptoms

Sometimes, when an individual has difficulty sleeping, there’s more to the problem than simply stress, a poor sleep schedule, and bad eating habits. In some circumstances, the reason behind the sleep deprivation a person is experiencing is a sleep disorder, such as restless leg syndrome (RLS).

Restless leg syndrome? What is that, you ask? If you are new to this topic, don’t worry, as we cover the basics that you need to know below.

If you find that you have the symptoms of this condition, consider having a chat with your doctor to figure out what the best approach to treating it would be for your unique needs.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder that affects the nervous system. It occurs in both men and women and affects up to an estimated 15% of people worldwide. In the United States alone, it affects up to 10% of people.

Anyone could end up getting this syndrome. However, it appears to be more common in women. Also, it is more likely that middle-aged individuals will have more severe symptoms.

Put simply, those who suffer from this condition have the urge to move their legs (and sometimes their arms) to help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms that are felt in their appendages.

What Are Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms?

This syndrome can cause a variety of symptoms, and they typically include sensations in the legs, such as:

  • Creeping
  • Crawling
  • Aching
  • Tingling
  • Burning
  • Pain in the legs
  • Sudden jerking of the legs

The symptoms characteristic of RLS typically occur when the afflicted individual is in a stage of rest, usually prior to falling asleep. Often, they become more noticeable in the evening and gradually worsen as the night wears on.

When the sensations start, the person feels the urge to move their legs, which helps to relieve the symptoms but does not stop them from returning. The sensations that are felt may be mild or severe.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

It is not entirely clear why this disorder occurs in some people. Research has found that an estimated half of all those who have been diagnosed with the condition also have a family member with RLS.

That said, other medical conditions that have been linked to it include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Kidney failure
  • Pregnancy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Other nervous system diseases

Lifestyle factors that may contribute to this syndrome include the consumption of alcohol, the consumption of foods and beverages that contain caffeine, and the use of tobacco products. In addition to that, if you suffer from a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, or if you simply aren’t getting enough sleep every night, the symptoms might be triggered.

How Does It Affect Sleep?

Due to the fact that symptoms become worse at night, those with RLS often have trouble falling asleep and tend to wake up several times throughout the night. Since the condition can prevent a person from receiving the restorative sleep they need, they may feel fatigued during the day and find it difficult to function due to exhaustion.

What Treatments Are Available?

There are different treatments for RLS that can help relieve the abnormal sensations and help the sufferer obtain better rest. However, treatment may vary depending on the individual case and the severity of the disorder, so it’s important for anyone who has or who may think they have this sleep disorder to consult with their doctor to learn more about it and discover how to manage it effectively.

According to Mayo Clinic, there are several medications that your doctor might prescribe to treat your condition. These include those that are made to boost the amount of dopamine in your brain, and those that affect calcium channels. Opioids, sleep medications, and muscle relaxants might also be considered to help you get some much-needed relief, and to help you get the sleep that you need.

However, if you aren’t too keen on the idea of taking medications to treat restless leg syndrome, there are some lifestyle changes that you can make in an effort to relieve your symptoms. You might try applying hot packs and cold packs, alternating between the two, to reduce the sensations in your legs. Or, you might try taking a warm bath before bed, and massaging your legs too. You can also try avoiding foods and beverages that contain caffeine, and getting a moderate amount of exercise during the day is a good idea. A foot wrap might also help relieve symptoms, as can getting enough sleep to avoid fatigue, which might make your symptoms worse.

Don’t Hesitate to Talk to Your Doctor

Whether the symptoms of restless leg syndrome have been bothering you for a long time, or they are totally new to you, do not hesitate to talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing. A lot of people have this problem, and there are steps that you can take to get relief, so you don’t have to live with it.

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