The condition of RLS was first described by an English physician Sir Thomas Willis in the late 1600s. Later in 1861 a German physician Theodor Wittmaack labeled the illness by its most noticeable symptom of “restless legs”.
Finally in 1945 during the clinical studies of Swedish neurologist Karl Ekbo, restless legs became the official term for this very incommodious condition to say the least. It is estimated that between 5-10% of the population are affected in varying degrees of severity by RLS and PLMD.
The neurological problems described as restless legs syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) are difficult to diagnose with certainty because they are varied in how they manifest themselves due to other underlying causes and conditions.
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is considered a sleep disorder because the symptoms occur while the individual is asleep and completely unaware of the involuntary limb movements. Medical experience shows that restless leg sufferers will in most cases also be afflicted by periodic limb movement disorder but not vice versa.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) on the other hand can manifest its symptoms during waking or sleeping hours. The movements of the limbs are voluntary because the person feels compelled to move their legs in order to relieve an uncomfortable feeling, such as pulling, tension, crawling sensation or pain, just to name a few. Restless leg syndrome can also produce leg or arm movement while the individual is sleeping, which would then be classified as PLMD if the person is unaware of the arm or leg movements.
For individuals suffering from restless legs syndrome, the unrelenting restlessness and constant urge to move one’s limbs causes ongoing sleep disruptions, ultimately resulting in serious sleep deprivation.
The lack of quality and quantity of sleep as a result of RLS symptoms can lead to physical, psychological and social issues including but not limited to the following:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Chronic pain
- Loss of performance
- Social Isolation
To date the actual root causes of restless legs syndrome have not been established with absolute certainty. However, it is highly probable that a malfunctioning of the dopamine neurotransmitter system in the brain that transmits signals between nerve cells is part of the problem. However, it is still unclear if this is only secondary phenomenon of RLS.
You may be suffering from restless legs syndrome if you have most of the following symptoms *):
- While sitting or resting you have an irresistible desire to move your limbs
- When describing your symptoms, you could classify them as very unpleasant creepy-crawly feelings, pulling, tugging or itching that are unrelenting until you move around
- Moving around makes you feel better and the symptoms subside
- The symptoms occur more frequently at night
- You and your partner are kept awake by jerking motions of your legs
- You have involuntary leg movements while awake
- Other family members have similar problems
- You experience frequent sleep loss with excessive daytime sleepiness and lack of concentration
- Your trips to the doctor generally reveal that there is nothing physically wrong with you
*) Source RLS Foundation
Treatment Considerations for RLS
Before you consider having your RLS symptoms treated with medication(s) think of the possible side effects. In addition, some medications may even make your symptoms worse. In many cases self-help with common sense life style adjustments can go a long way in helping to control or even eliminate the nagging symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Please also read our post titled
Members of self-help and support groups and even medical professionals have frequently expressed in comments or in product reviews of compression and support hosiery that wearing compression stockings has benefited them in controlling or reducing the discomfort caused by the symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS).
Restless Legs Syndrome: Relief and Hope for Sleepless Victims of a Hidden Epidemic written by Robert Yoakum.
A Note of Caution: Before making any changes such as wearing compression garments you should always discuss this with your health care provider first to ensure there are no pre-existing conditions that would preclude you from wearing compression stockings.
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