Restless Legs Syndrome is more than just a nuisance; it can be downright debilitating.
Does the following scenario sound familiar?
There they go again. You’re laying in bed, wanting to go to sleep, but your darn legs just won’t get comfortable. And of course, it’s always worse at night.
Getting up and walking around helps, but it’s bedtime now, and you really need to get some sleep because you’ve got a busy day tomorrow.
What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
RLS can be defined as a feeling of restlessness, discomfort that’s relieved with movement, and worsening of symptoms at night.
Heredity plays a part in the early development of symptoms. A general rule of thumb is that if symptoms developed before age 45, suspect a family history.
Restless Legs can also be either the main issue, or secondary to the main issue. To further complicate matters, there’s also iron deficiency RLS, and Iron sufficient RLS (more on this later)
RLS can even affect your arms.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?
This debilitating syndrome has both known and unknown causes.
Known causes include Some diseases, certain medications, iron deficiency, and even pregnancy.
Theories about the cause of RLS include either nerve damage or some abnormalities in the central nervous system. If the central nervous system is the culprit, RLS I due to an inability to adequately use iron. This is also known as iron deficiency RLS.
If the cause is from a certain medication you’re taking, then discontinuing that medication should stop your restless legs. Although you shouldn’t stop any medication on your own without consulting your Doctor.
Also, sitting for long periods of time will make symptoms worse.
Although there are many things that can cause restless legs, most of the time, the cause is not clear.
However, the symptoms are.
There’s a strong urge to move your legs; accompanied by itching, burning, tingling, or aching sensations.
Symptoms are worse in the evening or at night, though they may be present during the day as well.
This discomfort though not necessarily painful, may be enough to disrupt sleep and cause insomnia.
Mostly middle age and women? Incidence increases with age
Pregnancy can worsen the symptoms
Affects more women than men
It could also be a sign of more serious conditions, such as Parkinson’s Disease, Kidney failure, or Diabetes (Peripheral Neuropathy)
If you have restless legs there’s a good chance you’ll have another symptom that takes place after you fall asleep.
This is known as…
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
In fact, statistics show that 80% of people with RLS have PLMD; although most people with PLMD’s don’t have RLS.
PLMD’s are very regular leg twitches that occur while your sleeping. These twitches can be great enough to cause arousals from sleep.
As with RLS, more often than not, the cause of PLMD’s is unknown.
And like RLS, certain medical conditions, and or medications can also cause PLMD.
Generally, if you have PLMD, you won’t even know it; but if you have a bed partner, they will; unless they sleep really deep.
What you’ll probably be aware of is that you wake up a lot throughout the night. You’ll get up in the morning feeling like you haven’t really slept, and you’ll drag through the day tired and fatigued.
The effectiveness of various drugs and other treatment forms are currently being studied.
The following isn’t an exhaustive list by any means.
Of course, the downside to any medication Drug tolerance Rebound effect.
Gabapentin, an anticonvulsant used to treat restless legs.clinical trials show it reduces pain and improves sleep.
Sinemet (Levodopa) is another anticonvulsant that has been effective
As noted earlier, certain medications can cause restless legs; and antidepressants are the most common.
There are quite a few fairly good alternative options to medications; or in addition to medications.
If you’re taking any medications for restless legs, don’t stop them,; but you can include some of these other options. However, talk with your Doctor before making any changes to what you’re already doing.
The following alternative treatments have been clinically studied, and show promising results:
Vitamins—E, B, and C—All work by increasing circulation
Magnesium—Has shown some promise, is still under investigation
Near-infrared light(NIR Light)—In clinical trials, NIR Light works by improving circulation; and has reduced symptoms for up to two weeks.
Massage and exercise—Works by increasing circulation.
Iron supplement—This is really investigational, and so far, and most effective for those with iron deficiency RLS.
Acupuncture—A 30-day clinical trial comparing acupuncture to Sinemet, showed Acupuncture to be more effective. This is still under investigation, as other studies show mixed results.
Prayer and Meditation—Fascinating results on the effectiveness of prayer on healing. This could be a topic all by itself.
Although restless legs syndrome can be very frustrating, to put it mildly, there are things you can do to help reduce these irritating symptoms.
alternative choices; both of which have their merits. Ultimately, it comes down to what is more effective for you. Most likely, it will be some combination of both types of treatment.
So if you are suffering from RLS and/or PLMD’s, and aren’t getting the help you need, talk to your Doctor about some of these treatments and hopefully, you’ll find something that works for you.
In my next blog, I’ll talk about drowsy driving.
Till next week, blessings…
For further reading go to Pubmed and Google Scholar
Keywords ‘Restless Legs Syndrome’ Periodic Limb Movement Disorder