You went to a three-hour musical and couldn’t sit still. You tapped your feet, lifted your legs – all to the annoyance of your date and people around you. The inability to sit still could be something called restless leg syndrome.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes unpleasant or painful feelings in your legs and an overpowering desire to move them. Symptoms normally happen during late afternoon or evening hours and are most serious at night when you’re resting. You may also experience symptoms during times of inactivity when sitting for a long time (during a train trip or while attending a concert). They can make it hard to fall asleep or return to sleep after waking.
Many symptoms of RLS and other sleep disorders can be reduced through therapy, including ketamine treatment. Things to watch for:
- Sensations which normally start after lying down or sitting for a long time (think a car ride, airplane trip, or at a movie theater).
- The feeling of RLS subsides with moving, like jiggling your legs, pacing, stretching, or walking.
- Symptoms happen mostly at night.
- Symptoms may also be related to periodic limb movement of sleep.
RLS is more common in women than men and may affect three to 15 percent of the U.S. population, but it has certain risk factors:
- Your family history. As many as two-thirds of people with RLS have a family history of the disorder and are more likely to develop RLS before they turn 40.
- If you suffer from or have been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Anxiety and other related disorders.
What Triggers Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome is similar to other sleep disorders, mental illness, or chronic pain conditions in that it doesn’t have a single, definitive cause. Factors such as genetics and overall health can play a role, but researchers and medical professionals agree more study is needed. There may not be specific triggers for RLS, but any of the following can exacerbate the symptoms:
- The use of certain antidepressants or antipsychotics
- Certain treatments for bipolar disorder, such as lithium
- Medicine classified as calcium channel blockers, often used to treat high blood pressure
- End-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
- Iron deficiency
- Certain medications to relieve symptoms of nausea
- Pregnancy, particularly during the last trimester; in nearly all cases, symptoms normally subside within a month following delivery
- Neuropathy or nerve damage
There could be other possible triggers, too, like heavy smoking, caffeine, or alcohol use, if you’re overweight or obese, are under heavy stress levels, and if you don’t get much exercise or physical activity.
Even though restless leg syndrome doesn’t result in other serious conditions, symptoms can go from barely annoying to incapacitating. Many people who experience RLS find that “generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure.”
Over the long term, even with occasional remission, severe restless leg syndrome can result in a marked diminishing of your quality of life and lead to depression. People who experience RLS may benefit from different therapy, but the place to start is by getting diagnosed. A doctor specializing in sleep disorders should be consulted.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Like many mental health, chronic pain, or other disorders that can have serious consequences if left untreated, restless leg syndrome can only be diagnosed by a medical professional.
For diagnosis, your doctor will consider the account of your symptoms and finish a diagnostic interview to look for symptoms described as essential criteria; check your medical history; and disqualify conditions that are often mistaken for RLS. During an exam, a doctor might check your iron levels, and ask if you’d be willing to stay overnight in a special sleep study lab to look for other possible causes of your condition.
RLS is treatable, with care designed to relieve your symptoms. Moving affected limbs could offer temporary relief, as well as treating a related medical condition, like peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, or iron-deficiency anemia. Iron supplements and lifestyle/dietary changes may help, too.
If you can’t sit still long enough to watch a movie or have trouble sleeping because you want to move your legs or feet, you may be suffering from a sleep disorder called restless leg syndrome. It’s a condition that affects millions but doesn’t necessarily lead to worse conditions. Its symptoms are more than annoying, especially if left untreated. Contact us today to learn more about our innovative treatments that may help you find relief.