Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that affects over 15% of adults. It’s sometimes abbreviated to just RLS.
It’s more common amongst women and the chances of developing restless leg syndrome increases as you age. There are medical conditions that can also increase the risk of developing restless leg syndrome such as diabetes, arthritis and varicose veins.
As the name implies the main symptom of RLS is the uncontrollable urge to move your lower legs, though it can also affect the arms. Some sufferers may also experience pain. Different people who suffer from RLS explain the effects they feel in different ways. Some people feel a tingling, itching or pulling in the legs. Others experience what they call a prickly or burning sensation. Others say that they feel like there are worms under their skin.
The need to move the leg can occur during the day as well as at night. Suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome at night can make it almost impossible to sleep. It can make people get out of bed all the time to move about and calm their legs down, which means they aren’t sleeping. Because of this sufferers tend to be extremely sleepy during the day too.
This combination of tiredness and the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome can dramatically alter the way that a person lives their life. It makes it difficult to do things others take for granted like going on a long trip, going to the cinema, going to a concert, or even eating out in a restaurant. It can be painful to even have a long meeting at work. It often leaves sufferers with depression on top of everything else.
Research has been done into the condition and it’s believed that RLS is caused when the pathways in the brain that control reflexes and movement break. There is also a genetic predisposition to developing Restless Leg Syndrome.
There is currently no single test to determine if someone has Restless Leg Syndrome. Neurological examinations that detect brain anomalies are often unable to detect Restless Leg Syndrome. Most of the time a doctor will determine if someone has the problem after being told about the symptoms a patient is exhibiting. They also look at the family history of the patient and the results of any physicals or blood tests the patient has had.
Most of the time the treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome focuses on controlling the symptoms and sensations of the disorder. Sometimes a doctor will prescribe iron supplements as anaemia has been associated with RLS. Using relaxation techniques, changing the diet, and getting rid of caffeine and alcohol has also been shown to help Restless Leg Syndrome sufferers.
Most of the time the condition is also treated with drugs. Common choices include dopamine agents, benzodiazepines, opioids or anticonvulsants. While medication doesn’t actually cure the disease it does help to control the symptoms. Restless Leg Syndrome is a condition that can never really go away and in some cases the patient may need to take medication for it for their whole life.
There is a condition similar to RLS known as Periodic Limb Movement disorder or PLMD. There are two key differences between the disorders. Restless Leg Syndrome is a problem that can affect people if they are awake or asleep while Periodic Limb Movement Disorder only affects people who are asleep. The movements a Restless Leg Sufferer makes are often voluntary responses to an unpleasant sensation. With Periodic Limb Movement Disorder however the movements are involuntary and people can’t control them. The good news is that both disorders can be effectively managed with the right medical treatment.