While many people find it easy to chuckle at the name restless legs syndrome, the truth is that the condition can have serious consequences. Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is categorized as a disorder of the nervous system, but it is also a sleep disorder because it affects the way people rest.
If you believe that you are living with RLS, you have options. This guide will help you better understand the condition and the potential treatments available to you.
What Does Restless Legs Syndrome Feel Like?
Restless legs syndrome often includes an uncomfortable sensation that begins in the legs but may shoot out into the arms or other body parts. As a result, an individual may feel a strong desire to move their legs. In most cases, the feeling hits when the individual is sitting or lying down.
This feeling sometimes feels like twisting or pulling, but some people identify it as electric or even similar to the sensation of numbness in the limbs. The truth is that RLS is hard to describe, even among individuals who all face the same condition. It may differ for each person.
Who Is at Risk for Restless Legs Syndrome?
RLS affects men and women of all ages, though the condition is more common in women. Children can be impacted by RLS, but the condition most often affects those who are middle-aged or older.
Individuals at high risk for restless legs syndrome include those with chronic diseases like iron deficiency, kidney failure, and Parkinson's disease. Experts are still working on determining the causes of the condition.
Genetics play a significant role in the cause of RLS. In many cases, a major health issue is not to blame, but DNA is. Studies are still being performed to determine what role DNA may play.
Medications can also influence RLS. Individuals who use cold medications, allergy medicines, antipsychotics, anti-nausea drugs, and certain antidepressants may also experience the symptoms more often.
Pregnancy may cause RLS in some women, especially as they near full-term. After delivering a baby, most women no longer experience symptoms.
How Is Restless Legs Syndrome Treated?
Unfortunately, the condition is often undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. The good news is that RLS may be treated successfully. In some cases, the condition even goes away on its own.
Medication is one common method of treating restless legs syndrome. Dopaminergic drugs can treat moderate and severe cases by addressing dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain.
Sedatives are often prescribed to individuals facing sleep deprivation linked to RLS. These sedatives are benzodiazepines, but they do carry side effects many people consider undesirable.
Eliminating certain lifestyle factors may ease the symptoms of RLS. For instance, many people find that cutting out alcohol use is beneficial in easing symptoms. Addressing factors like sleep deprivation is also helpful.
Massaging the legs is helpful for many patients, as are heating pads, ice packs, and even warm baths. These are often the first effort people use to eliminate symptoms, along with over-the-counter pain or sleep medications.
Why Do Doctors Treat Restless Legs Syndrome?
Doctors opt to treat RLS because it can impact daily activities. Not only does the condition lead to exhaustion and sleepiness during the day, but it also affects mood, work performance, and even social relationships.
Exhaustion can also lead to poor productivity at work or school, leading to unhappiness and even mental health issues. Individuals who struggle with sleep may even face memory and concentration issues throughout the day.
Onslow Medical Specialties Clinic offers treatment addressing sleep issues including restless legs syndrome. If you suspect that you are living with RSL, call today to set up an appointment.