Restless leg syndrome or RLS is a neurological disorder that affects leg movements.
RLS is also considered to be a sleep disorder because it commonly interferes with sleep. Individuals affected by this disease may feel a strange sensation in their legs, which results to an urge to move the legs, which is often irresistible. The urge occurs because moving the legs eventually relieves the affected individual from those strange sensations.
These sensations may also occur in the arms. Some may describe the sensation to be uncomfortable, crawling, creeping, tingling, or itchy. It usually becomes worse during rest, especially when the individual is lying on the bed. The occurrence of these feelings often leads to stress, sleep deprivation, and walking discomfort.
The disease affects both men and women and can begin in any age group, even young children or infants. However, in most cases, middle-aged adults are commonly affected.
The symptoms of RLS may gradually worsen over time. It may even be so severe that it becomes disabling. Symptoms are usually worse during the night and less severe during the daytime. Symptoms in individuals aged 50 years old and above are severe that it causes sleep disruption nightly, which results to daytime sleepiness and decreased alertness.
The success of treating the restless leg syndrome usually depends on proper diagnosis. This is because treatment focuses on the underlying cause of the disease. If the cause of the disease is unknown, certain lifestyle changes, and medications may help in the treatment.
Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome
In most cases, the exact cause of having Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms is unknown. However, it is said that the disease may be associated with other conditions such as: peripheral neuropathy, iron deficiency, pregnancy, and many more. It is also said to be associated with dopamine imbalance in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that sends messages to control movements of the muscles.
Researchers also identify the disease to be hereditary. An individual whose family members are affected by the RLS is more likely to develop the disorder. In some cases, women who are pregnant may experience RLS, while for women already with RLS; it tends to worse the symptoms. This occurs usually at the last trimester. However, the disorder usually disappears immediately after delivery.
For most cases, RLS is usually associated with other conditions. An example of a condition is peripheral neuropathy. It is a condition wherein the nerves in the extremities are damaged usually as a result of alcoholism and diabetes. Iron deficiency may also worsen RLS. Iron deficiency may be a result of bleeding, blood donation, and heavy menstrual periods. Individuals with kidney failure may also have an iron deficiency. This is because erythropoietin production is altered, which is necessary for the production of red blood cells in the bone marrow.
Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms
Commonly, people with restless leg syndrome report an unpleasant sensation in their arms or feet, thighs, or calves. The feeling is said to be like a tingling, crawling, cramping, pulling, uncomfortable, itchy, aching, or burning feeling. Affected individuals usually don’t describe a feeling of numbness or muscle cramp. A person affected by the disease, however, reports an intense desire of moving their legs. Symptoms tend to fluctuate occasionally. Symptoms may be severe or mild during a certain period of time.
The signs and symptoms of RLS may start during or after a period of inactivity, usually after sitting or lying down for over an extended period of time. This includes in a movie theater, airplane, or in a car. The sensation felt in RLS disappears or lessens when the extremity in being moved. This includes: walking, exercising, and stretching. It is also worse during the night and less bothersome at day.
Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome
Treatment of RLS usually involves treating the underlying condition, such as peripheral neuropathy and iron deficiency. Iron deficiency may be corrected through the use of iron supplements. Consulting a physician is important before taking in iron supplements because of the risk for iron toxicity. The physician may have to first check the patient’s iron level in the blood.
The physician may prescribe certain medications to treat the symptoms. These include: Parkinson’s disease medications, opioids, muscle relaxants, epilepsy medications, and sleep medications. Parkinson’s disease medications affect mainly the dopamine in the brain to lesion motion made by the legs. Drugs for epilepsy are also used to reduce movement. Narcotics such as opioids are used to relieve symptoms of the disease, but should be used with caution as these medications are addicting. On the other hand, sleep medications and muscle relaxants may aid the patient to sleep better.
Patients with Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms may also be required to undergo certain lifestyle changes. These include: having a regular sleep schedule, moderate exercise, avoiding caffeine, cigarettes and alcohol, and using relaxation techniques to manage stress.
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