Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder in which the individual suffering has a constant urge or need to move his or her legs in order to stop unpleasant and often painful and irritable sensations in the legs while trying to sleep. RLS can commonly results in a decreased quality of sleep, and usually leads to another sleep disorder called insomnia. The symptoms of insomnia caused by RSL include: daytime sleepiness, anxiety or depression, a slower thought process and/or confusion of thoughts.

RLS is most common in adults ranging from middle to old aged. People who experience a lot of stress worsen their symptoms. Restless Leg Syndrome can be a hereditary disease and usually symptoms will be noticed at a young age. Researchers have not found the abnormal gene that causes RLS. There is currently no cure for this sleep disorder and the exact cause(s) is unknown. A correlation has been made with those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease, peripheral neuropathy, and chronic kidney disease. Also, RLS has been associated with less serve conditions such as pregnancy, iron deficiency and use of certain medications.

The sensations caused by RLS prohibit an individual from sleeping peacefully. They usually occur when lying down at night to sleep but can also occur during the day if sitting down for long periods of time. Sufferers have described the sensations as feelings of crawling, tickling, tingling, bubbling and pulling. They can last for a few minutes, a few hours or all night. The sensations can also occur in the feet or arms.

Sometimes the only way to relieve the discomfort of the sensations is to walk and be mobile. Most people have rhythmic leg movements during hours when they desire to sleep, these are called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). These symptoms disturb sleep and leave sufferers feeling fatigued, restless and tired during daytime hours.

Diagnosis of RLS

Usually RLS is diagnosed when a patient describes his or her symptoms to a physician. No specific examination is given unless peripheral nerve disease is apparent. In these cases, blood tests are given to confirm diagnosis and also check to rule out iron deficiency anemia as a cause of the RLS.

Treatment of RLS

There is no specific treatment targeted at curing RLS. Different medications are prescribed that work differently for each patient. However, all treatments aim to reduce stress and assist the muscles in the legs to relax during sleep. Non-prescription techniques include taking warm baths, doing gentle stretching exercises and getting regular massages.

Many patients need prescription medication to alleviate or reduce the symptoms of RLS. Low does of pramipexole or ropinirole (Requip) can be very effective at controlling symptoms. These medications are also prescribed for those who suffer from Parkinson’s disease.  In extreme conditions of Restless Leg Syndrome a physician may prescribe more impactful medications such as Sinemet, Gabapentin, Pregablin, or Clonazepam, a tranquilizer. Although these medications help patients get a good night’s sleep, they also leave them groggy and sleepy during the day.

If your sleep is severely disrupted, your health care provider may prescribe medications such as Sinemet (an anti-Parkinson’s medication), Gabapentin and Pregablin, or tranquilizers such as Clonazepam. However, these medications may cause daytime sleepiness.

Restless leg syndrome is not a dangerous or life-threatening condition, and it can be a serious sleep disorder. However, it can be very uncomfortable and disrupt your sleep.