What Is Restless Legs Syndrome And How To Treat It?
You are moving on your day and all of a sudden you feel the urge to move your leg. You don’t have control, regardless of what you do, followed by a weird feeling of relief. Or you are in your bed sleeping at night and suddenly you wake up as your legs jerk uncomfortably and then after a few minutes you fall back to sleep.
You might think what the hell is going on? If you encounter such situations you might be one of those millions of people around the world who suffers from Restless Legs Syndrome.
What is it?
The continuous urge to move your legs followed by strange and unpleasant sensations is what known as restless legs syndrome. A person feels creep-crawling as though his muscles are pulling. He might also feel tingling, itching, aches or burning sensation or even something like electric shock.
These sensations usually occur in the calf area but can be felt anywhere else from thigh to the ankle. Both legs may be affected while some people feel sensations in their arms.
Since the disorder strikes while resting or in the state of inactivity, it could be worse during the evening or at night. Restless legs syndrome may also render you tired and sleepy during the day, hence affecting your day to day activities.
Who gets it?
RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome occurs in both males and females. While symptoms can begin anytime, they are usually more common in the old age.
What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?
Understanding what restless legs syndrome is a feat yet to be mastered by researchers. The specific causes are not known but it may be related to abnormalities in the brain chemicals or neurotransmitters that are responsible for the regulation of muscle movements.
RLS may occur due to abnormalities in the central nervous system that controls automatic movements.
The causes can either be primary or secondary. Primary causes can relate to genes and are hereditary in 25-75 percent cases. Secondary causes may include peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, thyroid disorder, alcohol or caffeine intake or deficiency in iron, vitamin B12, folate, and magnesium.
It is also said that anti-depressants and painkillers may trigger symptoms.
How restless leg syndrome is diagnosed?
Restless legs syndrome can be diagnosed by analyzing complete iron panel, fasting blood glucose, blood urea nitrogen and thyroid stimulating hormone. Often muscle or nerve tests are also conducted. Before making a diagnosis the doctor may ask you about your family health history and make note of symptoms of insomnia.
What are the treatments available?
There is no cure for restless leg syndrome although various treatments can relieve symptoms right to some extent. Treatment may also include handling the secondary causes. The first line of defense your doctor would recommend is to avoid foods that cause or trigger RLS such as alcohol and caffeine. In addition, your current medication might be reviewed by your doctor that could be causing the problem.
Dietary supplements may be recommended to correct the deficiency of vitamin and minerals. For some people, physical therapy such as taking hot or cold baths, stretching, massaging or vibratory stimulation on the affected areas before sleep may work.
There are also wide varieties of medication such as dopamine agonists, opiates, dopaminergic agents etc. prescribed for the treatment of RLS.
While research is still on, there is much more to be learned about the diagnosis and treatment of restless leg syndrome.