Restless Legs Syndrome
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), is a common neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move due to uncomfortable, and sometimes painful sensations deep inside the leg, between the feet and ankle or in the feet, thighs, arms, and hands. The pain can be experienced especially when sitting or lying down.
Key Facts about Restless Leg Syndrome
- There are two types of Restless Leg Syndrome; primary RLS and secondary RLS.
- The exact cause of primary RLS (idiopathic) is unknown in most individuals, though there are very many conditions that have been associated with it. Secondary RLS is usually caused by an underlying health condition.
- Restless Leg Syndrome is very common and is estimated to affect up to 15 in 100 people. RLS occurs at any age but is more predominant in older people. It is also known to affect more women than men.
- Normally, the disorder starts in childhood and progresses over time. When it resurfaces at an older age, it might cause symptoms to worsen more rapidly.
- Affected patients often don’t describe the RLS as a numbness or muscle cramp. They do consistently describe the desire to move or handle their legs.
- The most unusual or distinctive aspect of the condition is that lying down or trying to relax actually activates the symptoms. Falling or staying asleep becomes a thing of the past.
- Sudden onset of Restless Leg Syndrome can be an indication of other serious health problems such as diabetes, kidney disease, and rheumatoid arthritis.
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Signs and Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome
Uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations:
Uncomfortable sensation felt deep inside the legs and is described by some patients as aching, tingling, pricking, crawling, creeping, jitteriness or pulling. Severe RLS may cause painful feelings which are more of an ache than sharp, stabbing pain.
Strong urge to move:
The unpleasant feeling is accompanied by an urge to keep the legs in motion so as to minimize the sensation. You may find yourself pacing the floor, jiggling your legs, tossing or turning in bed, stretching and flexing, rubbing the legs, and constantly moving your legs while sitting. Sudden muscle jerks may also occur.
Onset during inactivity:
RLS sensations are most likely to begin after you’ve been lying down or sitting for an extended period of time, such as in an airplane, car or movie theater.
Conditions worsen at night:
RLS symptoms are normally less bothersome during the day. However, at night, they flare up, especially when you’ve been lying down. In fact, in the early morning, you are likely to experience an episode of a distinctively symptom-free period.
Other symptoms include improvement with activity such as walking or moving your legs, disturbed rest or sleep leading to excessive sleepiness during the day, and involuntary twitching of your legs throughout the night.
Treatment of Restless Leg Syndrome
As the medical director at MedWell, our team of multidisciplinary doctors assess each patient individually and formulate a diagnostic and specific plan of care to help the patient based on our areas of expertise and discipline. Hundreds of our patients have been helped with our comprehensive approach to address chronic conditions. Treatment of RLS usually begins with a thorough and comprehensive neurological testing, where a small fiber neuropathy exam on your PN is done so as to test your response to light touch, cold or hot, vibrations, and pinprick sensation. This is then followed by an NVC test involving a screening of your brain with a variety of neurological maneuvers. You’ll then go through a Vascular testing, and lastly, the Balance testing to check the state of your balance with a computerized platform with your eyes open and closed.
Treatment involves the use of non-pharmacological techniques designed to help you improve the quality of your life, improve the quality of your sleep, and decrease daytime drowsiness. We usually recommend and provide nutritional supplementation in conjunction to other medical treatments which are designed to support overall health, your body function and well-being and not to treat or cure any medical illness, disease, or condition.
However, the first line of treatment starts with you; you must avoid substances or foods that may cause or worsen the problem such as alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. Other lifestyle changes include stopping smoking, taking part in moderate exercises, and getting into a good bedtime routine to help you maintain a regular sleep pattern.
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