Restless legs syndrome is the uncomfortable feeling you get in your legs, especially when trying to sleep. When you feel this, you may feel that you have to move your legs constantly and you have trouble sleeping. You can find more information below.

What is restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome is a problem that causes unpleasant, uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms usually occur in the afternoon or evening and are usually exacerbated when the person is resting, for example when sitting or lying in bed.

It can also occur when a person is inactive and sits for long periods of time (for example, when traveling by plane or watching a movie). It can be difficult to fall back asleep after waking up, as symptoms may increase during the night.

Moving the legs or walking during the day relieves discomfort, but these uncomfortable sensations often recur when inactive. Restless legs syndrome is also classified as a sleep disorder because the symptoms come on suddenly while they are resting and trying to sleep, and those affected by the condition have to constantly move their legs to relieve symptoms.

Restless legs syndrome is one of several disorders that can cause exhaustion that can strongly affect mood, concentration, work and school performance, and personal relationships.

Many affected people say they are unable to concentrate, have poor memory, or are unable to perform routine tasks.

Untreated moderate to severe syndrome can lead to a decrease in work productivity of about 20 percent and contribute to problems such as depression and anxiety. It can also make traveling more difficult.

It is estimated that up to 7-10% of the US population may have this condition. Restless legs syndrome occurs in both men and women, but women are more likely to be affected than men. Many severely affected individuals are middle-aged or older, with symptoms usually becoming more frequent and lasting longer with age.

More than 80% of people with this problem experience periodic movement disorder in sleep (UPHB). UPHB is characterized by involuntary leg (and sometimes arm) twitching or jerking movements that occur typically every 15 to 40 seconds during sleep, sometimes throughout the night.

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Fortunately, this problem can be treated with non-drug treatments and, if necessary, medication.

What causes restless legs syndrome?

In most cases, the cause of this condition is unknown. However, this syndrome has a genetic component and other individuals may be affected in families with onset of symptoms before age 40. Specific gene variants have been associated with this condition. Evidence suggests that low iron levels in the brain may also be responsible for this syndrome.

Significant evidence also suggests that it is associated with a dysfunction in one of the parts of the brain that use dopamine and control movement (the basal ganglia).

Dopamine is required to produce purposeful muscle activity and movement. If there is a shortage of dopamine, this often results in involuntary movements. Parkinson’s disease , another dopamine-related disorder, can also trigger restless legs syndrome.

Restless legs syndrome also appears to be associated with or accompanying the following factors:

  • End-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
  • iron deficiency
  • Certain medications, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants, cold medications, and allergy medications
  • Use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • Pregnancy, especially in the last trimester (symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery)
  • neuropathy (nerve pain)

Other sleep conditions, such as sleep deprivation and sleep apnea, can also exacerbate or trigger symptoms in some people. Reducing or completely eliminating these factors may relieve symptoms.

What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?

People with restless legs syndrome feel an irresistible urge in their lower extremities, which is accompanied by uncomfortable sensations, unlike the normal sensations experienced by people without the condition.

The sensations in your legs are often difficult to describe, but can be described as aching, throbbing, pulling, itching, or restless. These sensations can also affect the arms and, rarely, the chest or head. Although uncomfortable sensations can occur on only one side of the body, they often affect both sides.

Because moving the legs (or other affected parts of the body) relieves discomfort, these people keep their legs in constant motion to minimize or avoid sensations. They can constantly move their legs while sitting and constantly rotate them in bed.

A classic feature of restless legs syndrome is that symptoms are worse at night, a symptom-free period in the early morning, allowing for more restful sleep during that time. Some people have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. The less they sleep, the more severe the symptoms may be.

The severity and frequency of symptoms can vary from person to person. In moderately severe cases, symptoms occur only once or twice a week, causing a significant delay in sleep onset. In severe cases, symptoms occur more than twice a week, causing interruption of sleep and impaired daytime function.

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People with this syndrome may think that they get better after a while. Because the symptoms disappear. However, it is usual for the symptoms to come back suddenly after they have disappeared, and they are usually more severe this time.

People with both this syndrome and associated medical conditions tend to develop more severe symptoms rapidly. In contrast, people without associated medical conditions may find that the syndrome progresses very slowly, especially if they have this problem at an early age. It may take months or years before symptoms appear regularly.

When should you see a doctor?

Some people with restless legs syndrome never seek medical attention because they worry they won’t be taken seriously. However, this syndrome can interfere with your sleep, cause daytime drowsiness and affect your quality of life.

If you think you may have restless legs syndrome and it is affecting your quality of life, you should contact your doctor as soon as possible.

Which doctor treats restless legs syndrome?

If you think you suffer from restless legs syndrome, you may be wondering what type of doctor to see. Your family doctor should be your first stop to start treatment. If necessary, your family doctor will send you to a neurologist.

How is restless legs syndrome diagnosed?

Since there is no specific test for this condition, it is diagnosed through a doctor’s evaluation. The five basic criteria for clinical diagnosis of the disease are:

  • A strong and often overwhelming need or urge to move the legs, often associated with abnormal, unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations
  • The urge to move the legs begins or worsens during rest or inactivity
  • At least temporary and partial or complete relief of the urge to move the legs with movements
  • Onset or intensification of the urge to move the legs in the evening or night
  • The above four characteristics are not caused by any other medical or behavioral condition

A doctor will largely focus on the individual’s symptom descriptions, triggers, comforting factors, as well as the presence or absence of symptoms throughout the day.

Information from a neurological and physical exam, as well as a person’s medical history and list of available medications can be helpful. The health history of family members is also examined. The frequency, duration and intensity of the symptoms can be asked of the patient.

laboratory tests ; It can rule out other conditions such as kidney failure, iron deficiency anemia, or pregnancy that can cause symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

Blood tests can identify iron deficiencies and other medical disorders associated with the syndrome. In some cases, sleep studies such as polysomnography (a test that records an individual’s brain waves, heart rate, breathing, and leg movements all night long) can identify the presence of other causes of sleep disturbance.

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It can be particularly difficult to diagnose restless legs syndrome in children. This is because it can be difficult for children to describe what they are experiencing, when and how often symptoms occur, and how long the symptoms last. In children, this condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder .

How is restless legs syndrome treated?

This condition can be treated to relieve symptoms. Moving the affected limb with exercises can also provide temporary relief. Sometimes the symptoms of restless legs syndrome can be controlled by finding and treating an associated medical condition such as peripheral neuropathy, diabetes , or iron deficiency anemia .

Iron supplements or medications are often helpful, but no single medication will work for all individuals. Different drugs may need to be tried for different people. In addition, medications taken regularly may lose their effect over time or even worsen the condition, making it necessary to change drugs.

Treatment options for restless legs syndrome include:

Medication

Many prescription medications developed to treat other underlying conditions can reduce restlessness in your legs, including:

  • Drugs that increase dopamine in the brain: These drugs affect the levels of dopamine, the chemical messenger in your brain. Ropinirole, rotigotine, and pramipexole are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of moderate to severe restless legs syndrome. Short-term side effects of these drugs are usually mild and include nausea, dizziness, and fatigue. However, they can also cause impulse control disorders such as compulsive gambling and daytime sleepiness.
  • Drugs that affect calcium channels: Some drugs such as gabapentin, gabapentin enacarbil and pregabalin are also effective in this syndrome.
  • Opioids: Narcotic drugs can relieve mild to severe symptoms, but can be addictive if used in high doses. Some examples include tramadol codeine, oxycodone and hydrocodone.
  • Muscle relaxants and sleeping pills: These medications help you sleep better at night, but they don’t get rid of restless leg feelings and can cause daytime drowsiness. These medications are usually only used when no other treatment provides relief.

It may take several trials for your doctor to find the right drug or combination of drugs that works best for you.

Remember, your doctor will decide which medicine to take and how.

What is good for restless legs syndrome?

Certain lifestyle changes and activities may provide some relief for people with mild to moderate symptoms.

These steps include avoiding or reducing alcohol and tobacco use, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, a moderate exercise program, massaging the legs, taking a hot bath, using a heating pad or ice pack.

Healthcare stores also have devices that vibrate and therefore move the legs, which will work as well. Moderate-intensity aerobic and leg stretching exercises may also relieve mild symptoms.

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