Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually due to discomfort in the legs. This usually happens in the evening or at night when you are sitting or lying down. Movement temporarily relieves the discomfort.
Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, can start at any age and generally gets worse with age. This disease can disrupt sleep, which interferes with daily activities, due to insufficient rest.
RLS is classified as a sleep disorder because symptoms are triggered by resting and trying to sleep, and as a movement disorder because sufferers are forced to move their legs to relieve symptoms. However, it is best characterized as a neurological sensory disorder with symptoms produced from the brain itself.
Simple self-care steps and lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms. Medications also help many people with RLS, which we'll talk about at the end of the article.
Symptoms of RLS The strongest symptom of restless legs syndrome is the need for constant leg movements, from tapping, to walking or any other movements. In addition to this, the other most common symptoms of RLS are:Sensations that begin after rest. The feeling usually starts after lying down or sitting for a long time, for example in a car, plane or cinema. Symptoms decrease with movement. The feeling of RLS is reduced with movement, such as stretching, swinging the legs, tapping or walking. Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms occur mostly at night. A person experiences leg jerks during the night. RLS can be associated with another, more common condition called periodic limb movement during sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kick, possibly throughout the night, while you sleep. People usually describe the symptoms of RLS as abnormal, uncomfortable sensations in the legs or feet. They usually occur on both sides of the body, and in rare cases, these sensations are also felt in the hands. The sensations, which mostly occur in the hands and not on the skin, are described as: pain, throbbing, itching, electricity, scratching, etc., sometimes the sensations are difficult to explain to the sufferers. People with RLS usually do not describe the condition as muscle spasms or numbness. They do, however, consistently describe a desire to move their legs, which relieves symptoms. Also, it is common for symptoms to vary in severity. Sometimes the symptoms go away for a while and then come back. When is it necessary to see a doctor? People with RLS often do not seek medical help because of their condition because they think it is a temporary condition. However, since RLS affects the quality of sleep, and subsequently also the normal daily functioning, it is definitely a good idea to see a doctor when symptoms appear. What are the possible causes of RLS? Although there is no clear scientific confirmation of what causes restless legs syndrome, scientists associate this condition with an imbalance of dopamine in the brain, which sends messages about controlling muscle movements. In cases where people get RLS at an earlier age (under 40), it is often an inherited condition. Also, pregnancy or hormonal changes can make RLS signs and symptoms worse, but these go away or subside after pregnancy or with the return of hormonal balance. Risk factors Restless legs syndrome can develop in all age groups, but it is somewhat more common in women and the elderly. Although RLS is often not associated with other medical conditions, in some cases it accompanies the following diseases: Peripheral neuropathy. This damage to the nerves in the arms and legs is sometimes the result of chronic diseases such as diabetes and alcoholism. Iron deficiency. Even without anemia, iron deficiency can cause or worsen RLS. If you have a history of stomach or intestinal bleeding, have heavy periods, or donate blood repeatedly, you may have an iron deficiency. Kidney failure. If you have kidney failure, you may also have iron deficiency, often anemia. When the kidneys are not functioning properly, iron stores in the blood can decrease. These and other changes in body chemistry can cause or worsen RLS. Spinal cord conditions. Lesions on the spinal cord as a result of damage or injury are associated with RLS. After spinal anesthesia, such as a spinal block, the risk of developing RLS increases. How is restless legs syndrome treated? RLS is treated primarily by reducing symptoms. Leg movements temporarily relieve the condition, and treatment of the above-mentioned risk factors also contributes to calming the condition and reducing symptoms. Treatment for RLS includes: Life changes. Certain lifestyle and activity changes can provide some relief for people with mild to moderate RLS symptoms. These steps include avoiding or reducing the use of alcohol and tobacco, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, a moderate exercise program, and massaging the feet, bathing in warm baths, or using hot or cold compresses. Raising iron levels. For people who, along with RLS, also have low iron levels or anemia, it is advised, under the supervision of a doctor, to take supplements or dietary supplements to regulate the level of iron in the blood. Medicines that raise dopamine levels. These drugs, which increase the effect of dopamine, are mainly used to treat Parkinson's disease. They have been shown to reduce RLS symptoms when taken at bedtime. Although dopamine-related drugs are effective in managing the symptoms of RLS, long-term use in many people can lead to worsening of symptoms. Benzodiazepines. These medications can help individuals sleep more soundly. However, even if taken just before bed, they can sometimes cause daytime sleepiness, reduce energy and affect concentration. Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety, muscle spasms and insomnia. Because these drugs can cause or worsen sleep apnea in some cases, they should not be used in people with this condition. RLS is generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. However, current therapies can control the disorder, reduce symptoms, and increase periods of restful sleep. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age, although worsening may also occur in individuals suffering from associated medical conditions. If you have any of the above-mentioned symptoms, we definitely advise you to visit a doctor who will help you with the diagnosis and determine the therapy, if it is needed.
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