Restless Leg Syndrome

Imagine trying to relax or fall asleep, but the burning, tingling, aching or itching feeling in your legs prevents you from doing so, and you must get up and walk around. It can be a truly torturous sensation and can cause serious problems like chronic fatigue and even depression.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological problem in which a person feels an irresistible urge to move their legs. This can also occur in other body parts like the arms, but most commonly the sensation is felt in the legs.

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

The symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS) can range from mildly annoying to severely disabling. You may experience the symptoms only once in awhile, such as when you’re under a lot of stress, or restless legs may plague you every night. Common symptoms include:

  • Uncomfortable feeling in the legs
  • Strong urge to move the legs around
  • Symptoms appear when you try to relax or rest
  • Symptoms worsen at night
  • Symptoms are temporarily relieved when you walk or move around
  • Legs twitch at nighttime
  • Feelings of frustration, irritation and fatigue

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

If you have restless leg syndrome, it’s important to know that it is a real medical problem. Though it can be hard to diagnose or explain, it is a legitimate problem and deserves attention. Researchers and scientists have found the probable cause of RLS to be related to imbalanced levels of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells, so an imbalance there could cause the uncomfortable urge to move. RLS can affect anyone, but studies show that it can also be genetic, and that it is most commonly found in women. Restless leg syndrome can also be connected to other health issues such as iron deficiency, certain kinds of arthritis, diabetes and even aging.

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome doesn’t have a cure, but there are many ways to treat and decrease symptoms. There are certain lifestyle changes you can make, self-help relief techniques you can try at home or there are certain RLS medicines on the market that may offer relief. It’s important, regardless of RLS, to keep a healthy lifestyle. Getting moderate exercise, eating a healthy diet, making sure to take a multivitamin and mineral supplement, sticking to a regular sleep schedule, kicking cigarettes and alcohol to the curb and limiting caffeine intake (especially in the evening) can reduce symptoms.

Things you can do at home to relieve symptoms include trying stretches to relax and work the leg muscles. Yoga is always a great way to get a good stretch. Sometimes wrapping the legs in ace bandages or compression stockings can help ease sensations or massaging the legs, soaking them, or taking a pain reliever may help as well. If none of these remedies seem to help, talk to your doctor about prescription medication options.

What Should You Do?

First, make sure you take this condition seriously. You shouldn’t feel obligated to brush it off as “not serious.” Try some of the above self-help techniques and keep track of your symptoms over time. It’s a good idea to keep a journal of your sleep patterns and symptoms to see if anything is gradually helping. If you find little relief, make an appointment with your regular health care provider to see if there is an underlying health problem like diabetes or iron deficiency. Your doctor can help remedy problems like this, or they can prescribe a RLS medication for you to try. Remember that you don’t have to give up trying until you find something that relieves your symptoms.

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