R is for Restless Leg Syndrome

August 23, 2020

Restless leg syndrome is a very stressful condition in which it is hard to control movement of the legs when sleeping. It has a significant affect on the quality of life. A lot of the treatments only work for a low percent of those people who have it.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations. It primarily affects the legs but can also affect the arms or other parts of the body.

Symptoms: People with RLS typically experience the following symptoms, which are usually worse during periods of rest or inactivity:

    Uncomfortable sensations: Individuals with RLS describe sensations such as crawling, tingling, itching, or aching in the legs. These sensations are often difficult to describe but are relieved temporarily by movement.

    Urge to move legs: There is a strong urge to move the legs to alleviate the uncomfortable sensations. Moving the legs, walking, stretching, or rubbing them can provide temporary relief.

    Symptoms worsen at night: RLS symptoms often intensify during the evening or nighttime, leading to difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, which can result in daytime fatigue.

Causes: The exact cause of RLS is not fully understood, but both genetic and environmental factors appear to play a role. It has been associated with abnormalities in dopamine signaling in the brain and may also be related to iron deficiency, certain chronic diseases (such as kidney failure or peripheral neuropathy), pregnancy, and the use of certain medications.

Diagnosis: There is no specific test to diagnose RLS. Diagnosis is usually made based on a thorough evaluation of symptoms and medical history. Healthcare professionals may use the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group diagnostic criteria, which include the presence of specific symptoms and their frequency and impact on sleep.

Treatment: While there is no cure for RLS, there are several treatment options available to manage the symptoms and improve quality of life. Treatment approaches may include:

    Lifestyle changes: Certain lifestyle modifications, such as adopting regular exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and practicing good sleep hygiene, can help alleviate symptoms.

    Medications: Medications may be prescribed to manage RLS symptoms, including dopaminergic agents (which increase dopamine levels in the brain), opioids, anticonvulsants, and sleep medications.

    Iron supplements: If iron deficiency is present, iron supplementation may be recommended.

    Other therapies: In some cases, other therapies like physical therapy, massage, hot or cold packs, or relaxation techniques may provide relief.

Management of associated conditions: If RLS is secondary to an underlying condition, such as peripheral neuropathy or kidney failure, addressing and managing that condition may help alleviate RLS symptoms.


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