Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome, also known as RLS, is a condition that causes tingling sensations in the feet and legs, prompting people to move them constantly to seek relief. These movements often occur at night or at periods of rest and can disrupt sleep. The exact cause of RLS is unknown but it may be caused by heredity, iron deficiency, kidney problems or peripheral neuropathy. RLS treatment varies based on any underlying conditions, however it is commonly treated with muscle relaxants and sleep inducing medication. Some women may experience restless legs syndrome while they are pregnant. This condition can affect patients of all ages, but tends to occur most often in older patients and is more common in women than men.

Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

Individuals with RLS often experience unpleasant sensations in the legs, thighs or feet that that may be described as:

  • Tingling
  • Cramping
  • Throbbing
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Aching
  • Burning

These symptoms tend to worsen while resting or lying down and can lead to an uncontrollable urge to move the legs and change positions. Although these symptoms do not usually lead to other serious conditions, they can significantly affect a patient's ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, and may lead to daytime fatigue.

Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS is often diagnosed through an evaluation of symptoms and a review of the patient's medical history. A physical examination is performed in addition to blood tests, and muscle or nerve studies to rule out the possibility of other conditions. In some cases, an overnight sleep study may be performed to carefully study sleep habits.

Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome

Treatment for RLS varies depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Symptoms are often relieved after treating an underlying condition such as iron deficiency or peripheral neuropathy. Treatment for RLS that is not caused by an underlying condition may include medications commonly used for Parkinson's disease or epilepsy, that reduce the amount of muscle movement in the body. Muscle relaxants and pain relievers may also be prescribed. Lifestyle changes such as exercising regularly, avoiding caffeine, and relaxation techniques, may also help to alleviate the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

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