RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME- AN OVERVIEW
Do you have a strong urge to move your legs and is this urge with some uncomfortable sensations? If your answer is in the affirmative, you might be suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder, which causes the urge to move your legs along with sensations like pins and needles, itchy, or creepy-crawly feelings, usually getting worse with rest. Although this condition generally affects the legs, it can also affect the arms or other parts of the body.The symptoms are intermittent and can vary from mild to unbearable. This problem can also disrupt your sleep pattern to a great extent due to its tendency to get worse in the evenings and night.
Restless legs syndrome can be classified into primary and secondary. When the reason for RLS is unknown, it is known as primary or idiopathic RLS. When RLS occurs due to some other health condition, it is known as secondary RLS.
Causes Of Restless Leg Syndrome:
- Genes: Studies have shown that genes play an role in RLS. When it is caused due to heridity, RLS symptoms usually occur below the age of 40.
- Iron deficiency: Low iron level in the blood is linked to RLS symptoms, as iron deficiency leads to fall in dopamine level. Dopamine is a chemical from the brain that helps in controlling muscle activity and movement. When the level of iron in blood reduces, it leads to fall in the level of dopamine causing RLS.
- Chronic diseases/medical issues: Long-term health conditions like kidney failure, Parkinson’s, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, underactive thyroid gland, etc. have symptoms of RLS.
- Medications: Few medications, including some antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, calcium channel blockers, etc. that can worsen the existing RLS symptoms, although do not cause symptoms of RLS.
- Pregnancy: RLS occurs in some women during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester though it tends to go away a month after delivery.
- Alcohol use and smoking: RLS symptoms can be triggered or worsened due to the use of alcohol and cigarette smoking.
- Inadequate sleep: If you are sleep deprived, symptoms of RLS could be triggered or worsened.
- Overweight: Being overweight can also act as a trigger for RLS.
Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome:
- Strong urge to move your legs with uncomfortable symptoms: You will have a strong urge to move your legs with symptoms like cramping, tingling, pulling, burning, creepy-crawly sensations.
- Starting of the symptoms after resting: The symptoms typically start after resting for a period of time. You will notice the symptoms when lying down or sitting long hours during travel in a car, airplane, etc.
- Better with movement: The sensations usually get better with some sort of movement such as walking, jogging, stretching, etc.
- Worse in the evening: You will notice that the symptoms tend to get worse in the evenings and night.
Diagnosis And Tests:
Your doctor will study your medical history in depth and ask you a few questions to assess your symptoms. If the symptoms are what are described above, you might be ordered some physical and neurological examination to rule out other medical issues. Also blood tests might be ordered to rule out any other causes for the symptoms.
Treatment is focused on treating the underlying condition that is causing RLS. Once the underlying condition is addressed, there is great relief in the symptoms of RLS. But in case of RLS without any associated condition, lifestyle modifications are recommended. In case of lifestyle modifications being ineffective, medications are recommended.
- The lifestyle modifications include,
- Starting a regular exercise program.
- Eliminating or reducing caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Ensuring adequate sleep.
- Getting leg massages.
- Ice packs and/or heat packs.
- Avoiding standing or sitting for long periods of time.
- Medications: Dopaminergic drugs that help in regulating dopamine, benzodiazepines for sleep regulation, and narcotics for pain relief in case of severe pain may help in alleviating the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, as there is no permanent cure for this condition.
- Ayurveda treatment has proven to be effective in treatment of RLS. Oil massages, various types of kizhi and internal medicines have proven to be effective in treating RLS.