Restless leg syndrome, otherwise known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common movement and sleep disorder that is estimated to affect up to 10% of adults and up to 4% of children in the United States. If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from the syndrome, you will undoubtedly have a few questions about it. The team from Goldman Vein Institute is here to provide you with answers.
Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS in its shortened form, is best characterized by an intense urge to move your legs. This urge is often uncontrollable and is brought on by an uncomfortable, ‘heavy’ or crawling sensation that can be temporarily suspended by giving in and moving your legs around. Most people who suffer from this disorder will experience it at its worst at night, especially when they are settling down to go to sleep. As a result, those diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome will often battle with insomnia, which can have a negative and lasting effect on their ability to function optimally in their waking hours.
Scientists remain uncertain of the underlying cause or causes of Restless Leg Syndrome. However, they have discovered that it can often be hereditary. In recent times, researchers have found specific sites on chromosomes where they believe that the genes for Restless Leg Syndrome exist. This assumption has yet to be proven, but it is well-known that most of the individuals who are diagnosed with the condition when they are younger than 40 years old have relatives who suffer from it, too.
Another theory regarding the cause of RLS is that of a dopamine chemical imbalance in the brain. This chemical is responsible for sending messages to the brain to bring about muscle movement.
Other scientists believe that the syndrome can be triggered by extended sedentary periods, from working for a long time at your desk to enduring a long-haul flight or bus ride.
Finally, some studies show that women who do not usually suffer from RLS may experience it during pregnancy, particularly during the third trimester. Further to this, women who have been diagnosed with the condition may notice that it worsens temporarily throughout pregnancy.
RLS’s primary symptom is a crawling sensation in the legs that usually presents itself when the person has been lying or sitting down for a while, or when in bed at night. You can be pretty sure that you have RLS if you experience a temporary sense of relief by moving your legs or getting up and walking.
Those with the condition might also notice leg twitching at night since RLS is often associated with another disorder called ‘periodic limb movement of sleep’.
RLS is not thought to be caused by food, although some food items can exacerbate symptoms. Some experts insist that adding certain foods to your diet can aid in reducing symptoms, too. Research has shown that higher amounts of folate, magnesium, and iron can benefit RLS sufferers tremendously. If this is true, you should look into including more dark leafy greens (such as spinach and kale), beans, lentils, and fortified cereals in your eating plan.
On the other side of the coin, people with RLS are encouraged to steer clear of food and drinks that contain excessive amounts of caffeine (chocolate, coffee, fried foods, and sugary treats). Caffeine is a stimulant that can set off your nerves, thus aggravating your existing RLS symptoms and making the urges even more challenging to control.
You will need to decide which approach to treating RLS you would prefer to take – the natural route or the medication route. It is also possible to try a combination of both.
Here at Goldman Vein Institute, we can assist you in creating an effective treatment plan that focuses on relieving your symptoms and providing you with maximum relief. We examine:
It is estimated that RLS affects twice the number of women than it does men. An RLS diagnosis is also more likely if you are over the age of 40. However, it is a disorder that is known to strike at any age – even during childhood. As mentioned above, RLS is common in pregnancy due to hormonal changes.
In some cases, RLS is simply a symptom of another underlying condition. For example, people who have damage to the nerves in their feet will experience RLS. This condition is known as peripheral neuropathy.
RLS can also often be a sign that you have anemia (iron deficiency), so be sure to get this checked out just to be safe.
Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that getting a spinal block (anesthesia to the spinal cord) can increase your chances of developing Restless Leg Syndrome in the future. This risk exists because a spinal block can leave lesions on the spinal cord, and spinal cord conditions are linked to RLS.
There are a few natural home remedies that can bring relief. As mentioned above, leg massages and hot baths/showers often work wonders. However, some people prefer cold compresses instead of heat.
It is recommended that you get regular, moderate exercise, preferably in the morning or early afternoon. Some individuals report worsened symptoms if they exercise later in the day or push themselves too hard.
You can also investigate the various foot wrap options out there. You will find a couple of manufacturers who design foot wraps specifically for people diagnosed with RLS.
As stated above, you should consider taking iron, folate, and magnesium supplements to help treat RLS.
Yes, there are certain medications that might worsen RLS symptoms. These medications include some anti-nausea drugs, as well as medications for the relief of allergies. There have also been reports of specific anti-depressants and antipsychotic medications having a negative effect on those with the disorder.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for Restless Leg Syndrome. However, if you put the treatment suggestions and recommended lifestyle changes into practice, you are sure to notice an improvement in both your symptoms and your overall quality of life.
Most commonly, if left untreated, Restless Leg Syndrome can make life significantly less pleasant. Seeing as though the disorder can have a dramatic impact on your quality of sleep, most people will experience fatigue, which can lead to a decrease in productivity at work. As symptoms persist, the individual might also develop signs of depression and anxiety. These symptoms might encourage them to seek help from a doctor, following which, anti-depressants are likely to be prescribed. As explained earlier in the article, anti-depressants can worsen RLS symptoms. The result is a vicious cycle of restless legs, depression, and anxiety – hence the reason why it is vital that RLS is diagnosed as early on as possible.
RLS sufferers need to pay special attention to improving their sleeping conditions. Ensure optimal airflow in the room and tweak the temperature to a comfortable setting – not too hot and not too cold. Consider meditation right before bedtime and focus on staying relaxed after that. Try gently massaging your legs if symptoms appear. Finally, you might also want to look into purchasing a foot wrap explicitly designed for combatting the discomfort associated with the condition.
It is crucial to make an appointment with your doctor, such as the vein experts at Goldman Vein, as soon as you suspect that you might have Restless Leg Syndrome. The urgency to get a diagnosis is because the condition can lead to depression, anxiety, and severe fatigue if left untreated. Keep a journal in which you document the symptoms you experience daily, and when. This information will come in handy in terms of assisting the doctor in successfully diagnosing your condition and advising you regarding the treatment options available to you.
It is thought to be, yes. However, genetic links are not present in all cases. As stated previously, there is more likely to be a family history of the disorder in individuals diagnosed before they turn 40.
Yes, there are. Aside from massage, there are a few helpful exercises that you can do at home to aid in alleviating your symptoms. Many people recommend engaging in yoga, Pilates, swimming, and cycling. It can also help to do daily stretches, such as the following:
If you have any further questions regarding how Goldman Vein Institute can assist you in treating your Restless Leg Syndrome, do not hesitate to get in touch to set up an appointment with one of our experts.