It is estimated that as many as 12 million Americans may be effected by restless leg syndrome (RLS). These figures could be on the low side as many with the condition may go undiagnosed.
RLS is a condition in which leg sensations are felt such as creepy crawling, uncomfortable feelings that are in the legs when the individual tries to relax, especially at night. If the individual does not seek treatment they will experience exhaustion and daytime fatigue. This exhaustion will have a negative impact on daily activities such as not being able to function at work, school etc. It is difficult to concentrate and memory may be impaired due to lack of sleep.
Males and females can have RLS as well as individuals of all ages, including children. Those with RLS can also suffer from involuntary arm or leg movement disorder called “periodic limb movement disorder” (PLMD). The cause of RLS like PLMD is unknown.
The symptoms of RLS are uncomfortable sensations in the legs (and sometimes the arms) that are uncomfortable like creepy crawlies and an irresistible urge to move the legs or arms. These sensations are felt inside the leg, usually between the knee and ankle. They can be on just one side of the body, but usually on both sides. Moving the body part where the sensations are occuring often helps. People with RLS can be found pacing the floor and keeping their legs in motion while sitting. The sensations often happen while sitting for any length of tmie like while in a movie theatre, during long car rides or while sitting at a computer.
Symptoms can vary in duration and intensity. Symptoms may increase in severity with age. Symptoms usually become more severe as time goes on.
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A family history of RLS is common, which means that RLS is likely to be a genetic disorder. There is not enough studies or research done yet on RLS so there are a lot of unanswered questions about causes etc.
Individuals with low levels of iron or who have anemia. It is common for those who have parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, diabetes, or peripheral neuropathy to have RLS. Pregnant women have also reported having RLS that disappears after the baby is born.
Certain medications taken for cardiac disease or high blood pressure can induce temporary RLS symptoms. These symptoms will disappear when the medication is switched to another medicine.
Consuming alcohol or tobacco products and also caffeine in food and drink can cause RLS symptoms to increase or become more severe; so individuals with RLS should avoid these substances.
Patients with RLS have reported some relief when they can improve lifestyle habits regarding sleep, diet, exercise and when they can learn relaxation techniques and apply these techniques to their daily activities.
RLS patients should take heart in that there is research being conducted on their behalf by The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and by other institutes that are members of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and at other major medical institutions across the United States. Once there is a higher level of scientific understanding of RLS, methods of diagnosing and treating restless leg syndrome won’t be far behind.