Restless Leg Syndrome
If you have ever shared a bed with someone suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome, you know how hard it is to get a good night’s rest. I know because I was married to a woman who suffered from RLS. Her constant thrashing around and kicking me in her sleep drove us to sleep in separate beds. What I did not know at the time was just how disturbing RLS was for her too. I did not become aware of that until I started researching RLS for this article.
What is RLS?
The Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is best described as an uncontrollable urge to move one's legs. The Restless Leg Syndrome usually appears in middle-aged and older adults. Stress exacerbates RLS. Very l is known about the causes of RLS or the unpleasant sensations in the legs that precipitate the uncontrollable urge to move the legs. The movement of the legs relieves the unpleasant sensations, but why moving the legs relieves the creepy feelings is also unknown.
What causes of RLS?
As I have already stated, no one knows what causes RLS in middle-aged and older people. Researchers have determined that some forms of RLS are inheritable and can be passed down from one generation to the next. Symptoms of inheritable forms of RLS may appear at an earlier age than the non-inheritable forms, but the gene causing inheritable RLS remains a mystery. There are some diseases that make a person more prone to suffer RLS.
People suffering from one or more of the following disorders are more likely to suffer from RLS.
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Chronic kidney disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Iron deficiency
- Use of certain medications
What researcher have determined is that RLS precipitates insomnia, which in turn can lead to daytime sleepiness, anxiety, depression, and confused thought processes.
People suffering from RLS develop uncomfortable sensations in their lower legs that can only be relieved by moving their legs.
- the uncomfortable feelings are varied and may include creeping, crawling, aching, pulling, searing, tingling, bubbling, or burning sensations.
- these uncomfortable sensations usually occur at night or during the day if the sufferer remains sitting in one position for extended periods of time.
- people who suffer from RLS during sleep have rhythmic leg movements during their sleep called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD.
- although not as common, these same sensations may be felt in the person’s upper legs, feet, and arms as well.
- the disturbing sensations will usually persist for one hour or more at a time.
There are no specific tests that can be used to diagnose RLS unless the patient is also suffering from a predisposing disorder. Tests can be performed to determine if there is peripheral nerve disease, and blood tests (CBC and Serum Ferritin) can be performed to rule out iron-deficiency anemia, which can occur with rare cases of RLS.
How is RLS treated?
There are no known cures for RLS, but there are some steps that can be taken to ease the symptoms.
- performing some gentle, stretching exercises and taking a long, warm bath before retiring will relax your muscles and reduce RLS movements. Having your mate or partner massage your legs after the warm bath help relax the leg muscles even more.
- people diagnosed with an iron deficiency should take an iron supplement.
- low doses of pramipexole or ropinirole (Requip) can be very effective at controlling symptoms in some people.
- if your sleep is severely disrupted, your health care provider may prescribe medications such as Sinemet (an anti-Parkinson's medication), gabapentin and pregabalin, or tranquilizers such as clonazepam. However, these medications may cause daytime sleepiness.
- in extreme cases, your doctor may prescribe very low doses of narcotics to induce sleep.
Not life threatening
Restless leg syndrome is not dangerous or life-threatening, and it is not a sign of a serious disorder. However, it can be uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep.