Restless Leg Syndrome RLS or Willis Ekbom Disease is s neurological disorder and is also termed as Willis-Ekbon Disease or WED.
It causes unpleasant sensations in the legs and a powerful urge to move. For most people suffering from it, the urge is more intense when you are relaxing or trying to sleep.
It usually happens in the evening or nighttime hours while you are sitting or lying down, Moving your legs eases the unpleasant sensations temporarily.
Doctors consider it a sleep disorder and it can worsen if you do not get treatment. RLS affects up to 10% of people in America according to a study.
Moreover, it is common in women and middle-aged people than in men. In some cases, the signs and symptoms go unnoticed if they are mild or do not happen often.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, about 80%of people with RLD have a related condition, Periodic Limb Movement, PLMS.
PLMS can cause your legs to twitch and jerk during sleep and it can happen for 15 to 40 seconds. Moreover, it can continue all night long.
In some cases, PLMS can even lead to sleep deprivation.
Signs and Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome, RLS
Signs and Symptoms of RLS like sensations on the legs. These sensations might feel like tingling, itching, crawling, pulling, throbbing, or pins and needles.
Moreover, you will have a powerful urge to move your legs to make these sensations go away.
It is important to note that these sensations can also happen in other parts of your body like arms, chest, or head. These can happen on other or both sides of your body or can move from one part to another.
According to a study, more than 40% of people with RLS have some family history of this condition. Moreover, there are 5 gene variants that doctors associate with RLS.
When it is in the genes and runs in the family, the signs and symptoms usually appear before the age of 40. Moreover, some research suggests that there may be a relation between iron deficiency in bain and RLS.
This may also explain why people with Parkinson’s have RLS. Certain medications of Parkinson’s can also treat RLS, however, studies are still ongoing.
In some cases, certain substances like caffeine or alcohol can trigger or intensify symptoms. Other causes include medications to treat depression, allergies, nausea and vomiting, and psychosis.
RLS is not related to underlying conditions in primary cases, however, it can be ab offshoot of other health problems like neuropathy, diabetes, and kidney failure.
Causes of RLS
The causes of RLS are often unknown. Researchers often suspect the condition may be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which sends messages to control the muscle movement in your body.
The causes of RLS might be:
Heredity: Sometimes RLS runs in the family, especially if the condition starts before the age of 40. Researchers have identified sites of chromosomes in the body of patients where genes of RLS may be present.
Pregnancy: Hormonal Changes or Pregnancy, can temporarily worse RLS and its signs and symptoms.
Some women might also get RLS during pregnancy, especially during their last trimester. However, the symptoms tend to disappear after delivery.
Lifestyle: Lifestyle patterns like lack of sleep or other sleep disorders like sleep apnea can trigger symptoms or make them worse.
Medications: Certain medications like nausea, antipsychotics, antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications that contain antihistamines can cause RLS.
There is no single test that can confirm RLS or rule out the chances of it. However, a large part of diagnosis depends on the description of the symptoms you face.
The following signs and symptoms must be present to confirm RLS. These are:
- An overwhelming urge to move your legs that are accompanied by strange sensations
- Sensory symptoms that might trigger when you are trying to relax or sleep
- Sensory symptoms however ease up when you move
- Symptoms might get worse at night and are mild or present in the early part of the day
Even if you meet the criteria, your doctor will still conduct a physical examination and will check for neurological reasons for your symptoms.
Moreover, you should also provide the list of OTC medications you might be using and the supplements. Inform your doctor about the chronic health conditions as well.
They will also order blood tests to confirm iron deficiency, other deficiencies, and abnormalities. It is often hard to diagnose the symptoms in children because they are not able to describe the feelings.
You can visit our clinic for laboratory tests.
In some cases, the treatment of RLS depends on the treatment of underlying medical conditions like iron deficiency.
Correcting an iron deficiency can involve taking iron supplements orally or intravenously. However, you will need medical supervision and after your doctor has confirmed it with blood tests.
However, if you have RLS with other conditions, then the treatment plan depends on lifestyle changes. In cases, they are not effective, your doctor will prescribe medications.
Let us discuss these medications.
Medications for Restless Leg Syndrome
Certain medications that treat other diseases are available to treat restless leg syndrome RLS, and these include:
To increase Dopamine: Certain medications to increase the dopamine levels in your brain like Ropinirole, rotigotine, and pramipexole can be used.
These are FDA-approved medications for the treatment of moderate to severe RLS.
The side effects are short-term and include nausea, lightheadedness, and fatigue. However, they can sometimes cause impulse control disorders.
Calcium Channels: Certain medications like gabapentin works for treating Rls for some people.
Opioids: Narcotic medications can help to relieve mild to severe symptoms, however, they can be addicting if taken in a high dose.
These include tramadol, codeine, oxycodone, and hydrocodone,
Muscle Relaxants: Muscle relaxants and sleep medications can help you sleep better however, they do not eliminate RLS. They may also cause drowsiness during the daytime.
Home Remedies for RLS
Home remedies do not eliminate the symptoms completely, however, they can help to reduce them.
Moreover, it might take some trial and error method to confirm which remedies are helpful for you,
Here are some home remedies you can try at home:
- limit your intake of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
- Strive to maintain your sleep schedule
- regular physical activity or exercises like walking or swimming can help
- massage or stretch your leg muscles in the evening
- using a heating or ice pack when you are experiencing symptoms
- yoga and meditation
If you are travelling that requires you to sit in a position for a longer time period, try to schedule them during the day than later.
Consult your doctor if you have iron or other deficiencies and talk to your nutritionist about lifestyle changes that can help.
Restless Leg Syndrome, RLS in Children
Some children can feel tingling and pulling sensations like adults with restless leg syndrome, RLS. However, they have a hard time describing them. They might also call it a ‘creepy-crawly feeling.
Children with RLS have an overwhelming urge to move their legs just like adults. Such children may seem inattentive, irritable or fidgety.
People might label them as hyperactive or disruptive. Diagnosing and treating RLS in children can help address these problems and improve their performance in school.
It can also interfere with the sleep pattern of children and can, therefore, affect every aspect of a child’s life. Certain criteria must be met to diagnose RLS in children up to the age of 12.
- Urge to move accompanied by strange sensations
- Symptoms might worsen at night
- Symptoms ease when you move
- Might trigger when you try to relax or sleep
Moreover, the following must be present:
- Clinic sleep disturbance for age
- Family history or either of parents has RLS
- Sleep study that confirms period limb movement index of five or more per hour of sleep
In case there are any dietary deficiencies, the doctor may prescribe medications to treat them. A child with RLS should also avoid caffeine and develop a good sleeping schedule.
There are no specific guidelines for people with RLS, however, a good review of your diet can help you.
Try to cut high-calorie processed foods with little or no nutritional value. If you are vitamin deficient then taking supplements can help relieve the symptoms.
If you are iron deficient, then taking green leafy vegetables, peas, beans, red meat or seafood can help to maintain iron levels in your blood.
Moreover, vitamin C can help absorb iron in your body. You can use citrus juices, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli along with iron Irish food items.
However, caffeine can be tricky. It can trigger RLS in some and help others.
Certain risk factors and increase your chances of developing restless leg syndrome, RLS at any age, even during childhood. Moreover, this is common with increasing age and more common in women than in men.
RLS is not related to serious medical problems, however, it can sometimes accompany other conditions like:
Peripheral Neuropathy: It can damage your nerves in your hands and feet and may be due to chronic diseases like diabetes and alcoholism
Iron Deficiency: Iron deficiency can cause or worsen RLS. Moreover, if you have a history of bleeding, experience heavy bleeding during your periods or is a blood donor, you may have iron deficiency.
Kidney Failure: In case you suffer from kidney failure, you have iron deficiency or anaemia.
When your kidneys do not function properly, iron storage can decrease in your blood. The can cause or worsen RLS.
Spinal Cord Conditions: Lesions on the spinal cord can cause RLS. Moreover, anesthesia to the spinal cord can increase your chances of developing RLS.
The Bottom Line
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stoke, restless leg syndrome.RLS affects about 10% of people in America. Moreover, this includes about 1 million school-going children.
Moreover, 35% of people experience symptoms before age 20. 1 in 10 report symptoms before age of 10 and the symptoms tend to worsen with age.
This condition can occur at any age, and you are suspectable to it if you have either or both of your parents with RLS. You make certain lifestyle changes to improve the signs and symptoms however, consult your doctor or seek medical advice if they worsen.