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Restless Leg Syndrome

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is exactly what it sounds like, an irresistible urge to move the legs or arms. People with this neurological or nervous system disorder experience abnormal unpleasant sensations in the legs or arms ranging from uncomfortable to downright painful, especially when sitting or lying down and are accompanied by an urgent need to move around. RLS can also occur in the arms, hands, feet and thighs but is usually radiates from deep inside the lower leg (between the knee and ankle). RLS can occur on only one side of the body but more commonly affects both. As moving the legs or other affected area of the body seems to be the only thing that relieves the discomfort, people with RLS can be found pacing the floor, jiggling or moving the legs while sitting and tossing and turning in bed. The oddity around RLS is that relaxing aggravates the symptoms so they are less noticeable during the day and increase during the evening or at night especially during the onset of sleep.


Causes and Risk Factors for Restless Leg Syndrome

Scientists, as of yet, have no idea what causes or aggravates Restless Leg Syndrome but it has shown to be linked to other pre-existing conditions. A family history of RLS is present in about 50% of those properly diagnosed. Other contributing factors are low iron levels or anemia, vitamin deficiencies, pregnancy, certain medications including some over the counter cough and cold remedies and chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease.


Researchers’ estimate that between 2% and 15% of the world’s population suffers from RLS but the numbers could be much higher due to those afflicted being undiagnosed or misdiagnosed as there are no clinical tests for the presence of or predisposition for RLS. It affects slightly more women than men and increases in severity with age. It can begin as early as infancy or develop at any stage of life where it will become a life long condition for which there is no cure.


Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment

Because there is no cure, treatment for RLS is centered on relief and control of the symptoms only, and varies depending on the severity of the disorder. Mild to moderate symptoms occur once or twice a week resulting in occasional sleep disruption. Severe RLS occurs more than twice a week causing major sleep interruption and significant impairment in daytime function. For those with mild to moderate RLS prevention is key and certain lifestyle changes may greatly reduce occurrences. Such changes would include: reducing alcohol, tobacco and caffeine intake, vitamin and mineral supplements, implementing a moderate exercise program or changing and regulating sleep patterns. The usefulness of heat, ice, hot baths, massage or stretching during an episode has also shown to greatly reduce discomfort.


For the severe sufferer of RLS some medications have proven successful to reduce the symptoms. Sometimes opioids (codeine, oxycoden) are prescribed for overall relaxation. Ropinrole (a dopamine receptor), a drug used for the treatment of Parkinson’s patients is the only drug approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the use in the relief of moderate to sever RLS. It may be useful to attend a sleep clinic and have your symptoms monitored for successful diagnoses and treatment.


Restless Leg Syndrome and Weight Gain

Although the syndrome itself is not cause for weight gain, the resulting lack of sleep and stress associated with Restless Leg Syndrome may. For more information visit the topics: Sleep and Weight Loss and Weight Gain and Stress.


Restless Leg Syndrome Help

Restless leg syndrome is for real as anyone who’s ever experienced it will attest. As a moderate sufferer personally, this author can testify that is no laughing matter in the wee hours when all you want to do is sleep and you cannot stop your body from the knees down from jumping all over the place. The only thing that seems to bring any relief for me is movement and in fact I find it absolutely impossible to stay still during an attack. For more in depth information on this curious condition please contact the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation in Rochester MN.