What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a situation where the person feels strange sensations in his legs. If you have RLS, you may feel the need to move your legs or generally move your body in order to improve those strange sensations. This situation may cause you difficulty sleeping and thus develop chronic insomnia.
What are the causes of Restless Legs Syndrome?
In some cases the cause of the syndrome is not found and it may coexist also in other family members (inheritance). In other cases, RLS is associated with other pathological conditions. For example, the presence of anemia (low hemoglobin) it proved to be an independent risk factor for development of the syndrome. Other causes of RLS were found to be the renal failure, diabetes and multiple sclerosis. Moreover, pregnancy is known to increase the risk of restless legs syndrome.
What are the symptoms of a person with Restless Legs Syndrome?
People with restless legs syndrome generally feel a strange – uncomfortable feeling in the legs, especially when are still for too long. The feeling described is like itching, bites, or as something to pull the skin away. It is frequently felt well deep inside the legs and not superficially. This feeling is usually below the knees and worsens at night. Usually the feeling subsides when the person moves – kicks away. However the improvement is temporary and the feeling comes back after a while. In a high percentage (80-85%), it coexists with involuntary movements during sleep, which usually is mentioned by bed partner during the consultation.
Summarizing the symptoms:
- Displayed after staying still
- Improved after movement
- Worse in the evening
- In 80-85% of cases are combined with involuntary leg movements during sleep.
They can cause insomnia and tiredness during the day because of poor sleep quality.
Is there a test for the diagnosis of the syndrome?
When your doctor suspects that you suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome, he will suggest that you have a sleep study in a sleep laboratory. This is particularly indicated when there is also suspicion of periodic limb movements during sleep or other sleep co-morbidity of sleep, e.g., sleep apneas.
Is there anything you can do to help the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?
Yes, you can try the following, that might help you:
Avoid caffeine, alcohol consumption and smoking. These factors seem to exacerbate Restless Legs Syndrome.
During the day try engaging in tasks that require mental concentration (e.g. crossword).
Is there a treatment for RLS?
If symptoms are mild and not bothersome, treatment is not necessary. However, if you need to receive medication, your Sleep Specialist may recommend you medications of the class of dopamine agonists as first choice.
In cases of pregnancy, pregnant women can usually take iron preparations, as the specific drugs mentioned above are generally avoided during pregnancy. However, the syndrome usually resolves by itself after delivery.