Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is characterized by unpleasant feeling that urges you to move your legs frequently. Actually it is kind of nervous problem that interferes with the normal sleep. RLS develops in any age and the symptoms worsen as you grow older. Since you will not have quality sleep during night it can cause daytime drowsiness. Making lifestyle changes and taking medications can help you to recover from RLS.

Symptoms :

There will be an unpleasant feeling and discomfort in your leg muscles more particularly in the calves and feet. It can cause crawling sensation or creeping feeling. There are also other symptoms like throbbing pain, itching and gnawing pain in the thighs and legs. The affected person will have frequent desire to move the legs and the sensations will be such that he/she cannot control the urge. For some people there may be severe symptoms described more than the above thus affecting the quality of life.

Common Patterns :

This unpleasant sensation will often be felt after you are sitting for long hours or lying down. This peculiar feeling will reduce as soon as you start moving or walking. You can get relief by jiggling your legs and stretching it thus giving some form of movement. During daytime the symptoms are less and it strongly increases in the evenings and night. There can be periodic limb movement making you to involuntarily move the legs. You will make hundreds of twitching movements during night.

Who gets RLS?

Restless leg syndrome can occur in children and adults and of any age group. Once it begins in early ages, you cannot control it unless you take treatment. RLS symptoms often go without recognition if the symptoms are mild. Middle aged people and old people will have severe symptoms.

Causes :

Restless leg syndrome is believed to be caused by changes in chemical reaction of the brain. Alterations in the level of dopamine can make difference in muscle movement. It can be due to hereditary factor since individuals with family history of RLS are likely to get this disorder. Women have increased chance for getting the symptoms of RLS and this is more prominent during last three months of pregnancy. However the signs will disappear after childbirth.

People having peripheral neuropathy disorder due to high blood sugar levels will have RLS symptoms often. Individuals with anemic problems and kidney disorders are prone to get restless leg syndrome. Certain type of medications like antipsychotic drugs and antidepressant drugs can worsen the symptoms of this disorder. Increased consumption of alcohol and lack of sleep, increased stress level can cause this syndrome. Old age can cause nervous problem but sometimes it develops with young children also.

Complications :

RLS as such will not cause any complications since it is not a disease. But the symptoms can be bothersome for the affected person. In many cases due to increased symptoms many people with RLS will have difficulty in getting sleep during night. This in turn will affect the quality of life very much.

Diagnoses :

No tests are necessary to diagnose this syndrome since the symptoms are evident. Your doctor may request for blood culture to eliminate any medical issues in your body. He would ask you series of questions to collect family history and know about the range of medications you are using.

Treatment :

Treatment for restless legs syndrome depends on the factor that has caused it. In case lack of iron (anemia) is the root cause of the problem then your doctor may prescribe you iron supplements. For diabetic patients with peripheral neuropathy medicines are prescribed to control blood sugar. Medications are available for controlling nervous problem that cause RLS. Prescription drugs like ropinirole and pramipexole that are given for Parkinson’s disease are often used for treating this syndrome. Symptoms ranging from mild to moderate can be managed using these drugs.

For some people combined drugs like Sinemet and carbidopa are given. Drugs prescribed for controlling epilepsy are also effective in reducing the symptoms of RLS. You can take neurontin for minimizing the twitching movements of your legs. Narcotic medications like oxycodone, or Percocet are also prescribed for relieving the symptoms but you should not get addicted to it. Some doctors recommend muscle relaxants like benzodiazepine for getting quality sleep at night.

Sedatives like clonazepam, triazolam and temazeam and zalephlon are given to reduce sleeping problems. Whatever medications you use be careful in taking mild dosage since you are likely to get addicted to it. Similarly particular drug may be effective for a while and soon become ineffective. This is because of augmentation problem for which your doctor may give alternate medication.

Home Remedies :

You can try leg massages to reduce the muscle spasm that triggers frequent movement of your legs. Keep your legs in warm water for few minutes which will produce soothing effect. You can also apply heating pads to your legs.

  • Alternatively try using cold compression on your legs or apply ice packs by wrapping ice cubes in a towel.
  • Develop good sleeping habit so that your symptoms will gradually get reduced.
  • Take mild pain relievers like ibuprofen or Motrin for reducing the twitching sensation.
  • Exercise regularly and practice meditation which is effective for relaxing your mind. Go to sleep same time and avoid watching television late night.
  • Restrict taking coffee or tea after evening so that you will get quality sleep.
  • Taking alcohol can trigger the symptoms and hence you can test if the symptoms have reduced by avoiding it.
  • Eat a balanced diet that includes iron, folic acid and lot of proteins and vitamins.

Coping :

You should not resist your symptoms and control it. The more you control it the more your symptoms will get worse. You can tell your family and friends frankly about your problem so that they will understand you better. Share your feelings with support group so that you will understand that you are not alone.

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