Restless Leg Syndrome

If you find your thighs, legs, and feet needing to move around when you are resting or especially at night when you are trying to fall asleep, you may have Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). RLS is a neurological disorder, but many people believe that their lower extremity movements are not a serious enough to talk to their doctor. However, it has been reported that RLS impacts 10% of adults within the United States population. Unfortunately, RLS may keep you awake at night and drowsy during the day, which ultimately may affect your relationships and ability to perform well at your job. Below are some frequently asked questions about RLS.

What are the symptoms of RLS?

Many patients described the sensations in their legs as the following:

  • Throbbing
  • Creepy and crawly
  • Twitching
  • Itchy sensations
  • Burning pain
  • Strong urge to move legs
  • Temporary relief from sensations by moving legs

These sensations are most commonly present when lying down to go to sleep at night; however, can also be present during the day when sitting still or trying to take a nap.

What is the cause of RLS?

No one cause has been pinpointed for RLS. However, there are several possible etiologies, which include:

  • Peripheral neuropathy, which is commonly associated with diabetes or alcoholism. Peripheral neuropathy is characterized by numbness, tingling, and burning pain in the feet, which is the result of nerve damage.
  • Pregnancy results in many hormonal changes and most pregnant women, who experience RLS, will have it during their third trimester.  Many women say that their symptoms have disappeared after giving birth. Overall, women are twice as likely to have RLS than men.
  • Kidney failure causes iron deficiency and electrolyte imbalances, which may lead to RLS.
  • Genetics. Fifty percent of the patients who present with RLS explain that they also have a relative who has or has had the same symptoms.

Will I need a sleep study for RLS to be diagnosed?

No. Most of the time RLS can be diagnosed based upon your symptoms. It will be helpful if you keep a log of when you experience the symptoms, descriptions of the symptoms you experience, and if able, how you get rid of the symptoms.

Is there treatment for RLS?

Yes. There are simple ways to decrease the symptoms of RLS, which include:

  • Warm baths and massage, may help in order to relax the leg muscles.
  • Apply heat and cold packs to your legs; many patients find alternating between the two temperatures helps more than just doing one or the other.
  • Exercise and stretching during the day; doing gentle stretching before going to bed may also help to minimize symptoms.
  • Do not drink caffeine, alcohol, or use tobacco products before going to bed as these can exacerbate symptoms.

There are also medications that your doctor can prescribe in order to treat RLS. In addition, your RLS may be due to underlying health problems, electrolyte imbalances, or iron deficiency, so if this is the case, it will be important for the underlying cause to be treated in order to resolve RLS. RLS can be treated, so it is important to seek medical attention, so you can return to getting good sleep and having productive days. 

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