Restless Leg Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable while you’re sitting or lying down. Restless legs are best described as a “creepy crawly” sensation in your legs that makes you feel like getting up and moving around. When you do so, the unpleasant feeling of restless leg syndrome temporarily goes away. The sensations can also occur in the arms. RLS may be associated with another condition called Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD). PLMD involves hundreds of events of twitching or kicking movements occurring while you are sleeping. More than four out of five people with RLS also experience PLMD.

What causes RLS?

In many cases, no known cause for restless leg syndrome exists. Researchers suspect the condition may be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine. This chemical sends messages to control muscle movement. Restless legs and, to some extent, periodic leg movements have been also associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy, vascular illnesses, kidney disease, and iron deficiency anemia. They are frequent in pregnancy.

What are the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome or Periodic Limb Movement Disorder?

  • Unpleasant or creepy, crawly sensations in your legs, associated with a strong urge to move?
  • Does movement help relieve the sensations?
  • Are you more bothered by these sensations when sitting or at night?
  • Do you often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
  • Have you been told that your legs or your arms jerk while you sleep?
  • Is anyone else in your family bothered by restless legs?

How is Restless Leg Syndrome treated?

Medications which increase the neurotransmitter dopamine, which affects movement, can be very useful in treating RLS. Many of these are the same as those used to treat Parkinson’s disease. Other treatments have been used with varying effects. These include hypnotic and sedative medications to blunt the brain’s alerting response to the activity. Additionally, pain medications can be useful for extreme cases. Anti-seizure medications have also been used successfully for restless legs syndrome.
Along with medications, behavioral treatments like relaxation therapy, massage, biofeedback or the trick of keeping your mind active with challenging games or work will help. Avoiding alcohol.