Restless legs syndrome is a medically accepted neurological condition that prevents or interferes with resting and falling asleep.
RLS starts to manifest its symptoms after sitting down to relax or after lying down and trying to rest or fall asleep.
The typical associated sensations are a crawling, itching and/or tingling feeling in the legs that won’t quit until the affected individual finally decides to get up to stretch and pace around trying to make it all stop. After they finally found relief and decide to sit or lay back down it starts all over again.
Individuals with RLS may not be able to function normally in their job, in their relationships and in performing the tasks of daily living as a result of sleep deprivation caused by their restless legs syndrome. In some cases RLS can also lead to depression.
Statistics show the prevalence of RLS as high as 10 percent of all Americans. Severe restless legs syndrome affects more than 5 million adults and around 1 million school age children of which about 33 percent have more severe symptoms of RLS.
Many people will not seek help for their restless legs for fear of not being taken seriously or thinking that their condition is not treatable. To make things worse, RLS is also often misdiagnosed and the symptoms falsely associated with nervousness, stress, muscle spasms, old age or arthritis.
Restless legs syndrome tends to occur in women at twice the rate compared to men. It can begin at any age and most people that are affected severely are middle aged or older. The symptoms of RLS are likely to be more frequent and seem to last longer with advancing age.
Over 80 percent of people with RLS also experience a common condition known as periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). PLMS manifests itself with involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that typically repeat every 15 to 40 seconds. Many times this can go on the entire night. Curiously many individuals with RLS also develop PLMS; most people with PLMS however do not experience RLS.
Risk Factors and Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is mainly treated by trying to relieve the symptoms. Simply moving the affected limb(s) can often bring relief. Other options are directed towards finding and treating underlying secondary causes of RLS. A primary diagnosis of restless legs syndrome is only possible after all secondary causes have been eliminated.
Such secondary causes and risk factors for RLS can be
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Venous Insufficiency or Venous Reflux Disease
Treatment Options for Restless Legs Syndrome
Certain life style changes and actions as well as medications for underlying conditions may be helpful in reducing and in rare case even eliminating RLS symptoms. These steps include one or more of the following as recommended and guided by your physician
- Decreasing or eliminating the use of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol
- Correcting iron and magnesium deficiencies with supplements
- Correcting folate deficiency (a water-soluble B vitamin) – occurs naturally in vegetables such as romaine lettuce, spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, mustard greens, parsley and others
- Ensuring a regular sleep pattern
- Performing regular moderate aerobic exercise activity
- Leg massages just before bed time
- Hot and/or cold baths for the legs
- Use ice packs or heating pads
- Applying pressure, e.g. regularly wearing compression stockings or support pantyhose
According to reports on websites for movement disorders (such as WEMOVE) a number of patients have found great comfort and regained more restful sleep patterns simply by wearing compression stockings or support hosiery in their fight against RLS.
Research Activities concerning RLS
The American Venous Forum (AVF) and several manufacturers of compression hosiery are regularly supporting venous and lymphatic research. Future research projects are said to also include the subject area of how wearing compression stockings can have an effect on restless legs syndrome.
However, before you decide to make any changes concerning your health and well-being be sure to discuss this with your physician to ensure that there are no contraindications that would prevent you from doing so.
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