Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the nervous system, or the part of the nervous system that affects movements of the legs. As it most often interferes with regular sleep patterns, it also is usually considered a sleep disorder. This disorder affects one of every ten people in the U.S. and can begin at any age. Correctly diagnosed, RLS can often be treated successfully.

People who suffer from RLS will have various discomforting sensations in their legs and an almost irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve these sensations. Different people experience the sensations in different ways. Sufferers describe the sensations as itches, pin pricks, or like something crawling. While they are not usually painful, these sensations are extremely uncomfortable and are usually worse when the sufferer is lying down at rest. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to a level that can significantly affect a patient’s quality of life. Symptoms will worsen over time and should be treated as soon as noticed. Untreated, RLS can lead to discomfort when walking, sleep deprivation, and an increase in patients’ stress levels.

While there are no cures for restless legs syndrome, there are available treatments that can be used to help relieve the symptoms. Consumption of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine may be factors in causing or worsening the problem, and your diet should be reviewed. In addition, review with us or with your healthcare provider all medications you are taking to determine if any of those drugs could be involved in the problem. Some underlying medical conditions will cause RLS-like symptoms, including anemia, diabetes, kidney diseases, thyroid disease, Parkinson’s disease, or varicose veins and a doctor will test for these. Sometimes simple nutritional deficiencies are to blame. Dietary supplements to correct mineral or vitamin deficiencies may be recommended. For some, this is all that is needed to relieve RLS symptoms. Physical therapy and self-care treatments may also be recommended, including stretching, taking hot or cold baths, whirlpool spa baths, applying cold or hot packs, massage, exercise and relaxation techniques.

For those patients whose conditions are not lessened by the above treatments, and whose symptoms occur at least three nights per week, medications are available. Used alone or in combination as determined by a doctor, anticonvulsants, alpha2 agonists, benzodiazepines, dopaminergic agents, dopamine agonists, and some opiates may be utilized for relief. Some are taken daily, while others are used only when symptoms occur. A Mt. Scott qualified sleep medicine specialist will help you determine the right course of action for your RLS symptoms and help you get the uninterrupted sleep you crave.