Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological based disorder that is characterized by one or more unpleasant sensations that primarily affect the legs and is highly disturbing to the sufferer. The uncomfortable feelings that are experienced may include feeling as if the leg or legs are throbbing, crawling or feeling as if the leg or legs are being pulled. In most instances, the sufferer also feels an uncontrollable urge to put the legs in motion. In many cases, this urge is considered to be highly overwhelming to the sufferer. When an individual suffers from this sleep disorder, the majority of their symptoms will occur when they are attempting to relax, or rest. As soon as the legs are moved, the discomfort is relieved.
Individuals that suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome often experience numerous symptoms related to their condition. In nearly all cases, it is believed that the process of relaxation actually activates the uncomfortable and troublesome symptoms. This is why, in most instances, the problems associated with this condition occur at night or increase in severity throughout the night. Here are the most common symptoms associated with this sleep disorder:
- It is common for RLS sufferers to experience a wide array of sensations that they describe as uncomfortable. These sensations are often described as being similar to “pins and needles”, or as if something is “crawling” on the legs. In some cases, the legs may feel itchy. These sensations are generally experienced when the patient is relaxing or resting.
- When the sensations occur, most patients feel as if they need to put the legs in motion in order to alleviate the feelings.
- Many patients experience the troublesome feelings in areas other than the legs. The symptoms may occur in the arms, as well as the feet.
- Individuals with Restless Leg Syndrome can suffer from the inability to fall asleep easily and the inability to stay asleep. As a result, people with RLS may develop anxiety when it comes time to go to bed or relax because they fear they will experience the uncomfortable sensations that often interfere with their ability to sleep.
- Not getting the proper amount of rest each night can cause daytime fatigue, cognitive impairments, low concentration levels, memory issues, emotional disturbances and mental issues such as depression and anxiety.
- According to statistics, at least 80% of all RLS sufferers will experience leg twitches and jerking movements at regular intervals while sleeping. These symptoms are directly related to a condition referred to as Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep or “PLMS” for short. As a result of suffering from this additional condition, patients find that their sleep is continuously and severely disrupted.
In general, the exact cause of this sleep complication is not known. However, studies on patients diagnosed with the sleep disorder have discovered many potential factors that may play a role in who does and does not experience the disorder and to what extent it is experienced. Nearly all research indicates that there is a strong genetic based link among individuals that suffer from RLS. In addition to genetic susceptibility, the following factors may lead to the development of Restless Leg Syndrome:
- Many professionals have discovered that those who suffer from this sleep disorder have low iron levels within the brain.
- Many doctors believe that this sleep disorder could be a result of a dysfunction in the part of the brain known as the “Basal Ganglia”. This area utilizes the neurotransmitter that is known as dopamine, which is necessary for the body to create muscle activity and movements that are considered to be smooth and purposeful. When there are disruptions to this part of the brain, involuntary muscle movements and complications may occur.
- Individuals that suffer from other medical conditions, such as peripheral neuropathy and diabetes may experience RLS.
- Many women that are in the last months of their pregnancy may be diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome. Experts believe that this could be a direct result of hormonal fluctuations and other chemical changes occurring in the body.
- There are certain types of medications that seem to cause symptoms of RLS. These include medications used to treat colds, allergies, nausea, depression and many that increase the amount of serotonin within the body.
- Certain types of substances, such as alcohol, have been linked to the onset of Restless Leg Syndrome.
There are many treatments that may prove to be productive for individuals that suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome. For some, something as simple as moving the limb that is directly impacted may provide relief. However, treatment may not be as simple for others. If the sleep disorder is found to be directly related to the fact that the sufferer has another medical condition, a doctor will usually attempt to treat the underlying condition in order to alleviate the RLS symptoms. In addition to this, a patient may be encouraged to make lifestyle adjustments and changes such as limiting the amount of caffeine that is consumed, taking nutritional supplements to address deficiencies and following an exercise program.
Medication therapy is another form of treatment for individuals with Restless Leg Syndrome. While it has been established that certain types of prescription drugs are helpful in reducing symptoms, it is essential to understand that there is no known cure for the condition as yet. Medication therapy is simply a means to make a person more comfortable.
Medications that increase the amount of dopamine in the body as well as medications that induce sleep are commonly used. Benzodiazepines are the preferred types of sleeping prescriptions. Opioids, which are often used to alleviate pain and induce relaxation, are also popular options among medical professionals when it comes to treating RLS.
Many professionals will also prescribe anticonvulsant medications because they increase the amount of serotonin in the body and assist in decreasing discomfort associated with sensory disturbances. If you feel as if you suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome, you should make an appointment with a doctor to confirm the diagnosis and discuss the most appropriate treatment options for your condition.
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