Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms, Causes and Treatment

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an appealing urge to move one’s body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations & causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder. It most commonly affects the legs, but can affect the arms, torso, and head. Moving the affected body part modulates the sensations, providing temporary relief.

What are the Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?

Symptoms may include:

  • Leg discomfort and strong urge to move – Uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs, accompanied by a strong, often irresistible urge to move them.
  • Rest triggers the symptoms  Leg pain is normally trigged by activity and relieved by rest, but with restless legs syndrome, the reverse is true. Restless leg symptoms start or become worse when sitting, relaxing, or trying to rest.
  • Symptoms get worse during the night – RLS typically flares up at night, especially when lying down. In more severe cases, the symptoms may begin earlier in the day, but they become much more intense at bedtime.
  • Symptoms improve when legs are moved – The uncomfortable sensations temporarily get better when move, stretch, or massage legs. The relief continues as long as one keeps moving.
  • Nighttime leg twitching – Many people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movement disorder, a sleep disorder that involves repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep. These leg movements further disrupt sleep.
  • Uncomfortable, itchy, pins and needles,” or “creepy crawly” feeling in the legs, the sensations are usually worse at rest, especially when lying or sitting.

The severity of RLS symptoms ranges from mild to intolerable. Symptoms can come & go and severity can also vary.

What are the causes of Restless Legs Syndrome?

Causes may include:

  • Hereditary – Nearly half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition.
  • Chronic Diseases – Certain chronic diseases & medical conditions, including iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, kidney disease and peripheral neuropathy often include symptoms of RLS. Treating these conditions often gives some relief from RLS symptoms.
  • Medications – Some types of medications, including antinausea drugs, antipsychotic drugs, some antidepressants, and cold & allergy medications containing sedating antihistamines, may worsen symptoms.
  • Pregnancy- Some women experience RLS during pregnancy, mainly in the last trimester. Symptoms usually go away within a month after delivery.
  • Other factors- Alcohol drinking and sleep deprivation, may trigger symptoms or make them worse. Improving sleep or eliminating alcohol use in these cases may relieve symptoms.

Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome

Treatment for RLS is embattled at easing symptoms. In people with mild to moderate restless legs syndrome, lifestyle changes, such as beginning a regular exercise program, establishing regular sleep patterns, and eliminating or decreasing the use of caffeine, alcohol & tobacco, may be helpful.

  • Sleep better by sticking to a regular sleep schedule –Fatigue can worsen the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, so doing what it takes to get enough sleep is crucial. Try hitting the sack at the same time every night, allowing plenty of time for winding down.
  • Exercise daily – Daily activity, including aerobic exercise and lower body resistance training, can significantly reduce the symptoms in most people.
  • Cut back on caffeine – Caffeine often makes the symptoms of restless legs syndrome worse. Try reducing or eliminating your consumption of coffee, tea, soft drinks, and caffeinated foods such as chocolate.
  • Avoid alcohol & cigarettes – Many people with restless legs syndrome find that their symptoms improve when they stop drinking and smoking.
  • Consider dietary supplements – Check with a doctor or nutritionist to find out if you’re low on iron, vitamin B, folic acid, or magnesium. Deficiencies can bring on RLS.
  • Lose weight – You’re overweight; dropping the extra pounds can often relieve or lessen the symptoms.
  • Yoga & Meditation – Stress and anxiety can make RLS symptoms worse. Daily Yoga & meditation can promote relaxation and alleviate RLS.
  • Medications– May be helpful as RLS treatments, but the same drugs are not helpful for everyone. In fact, a drug that relieves symptoms in one person may worsen them in another. In other cases, a drug that works for a while may lose its effectiveness over time.

“The leg gets restless and difficult to restrain, but it can be subdued by practice”