Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is characterized by a persistent need to move one's legs. The signs are usually more visible during nighttime, when an individual is relaxing, for example, when seated or lying in bed. People who sit for long periods are more likely to have them (for example, when traveling or working an office job).
The condition may make it hard for you to fall asleep or go back to sleep after waking up. It is common for the soreness to go away after moving your legs, but the symptoms usually recur after stopping. RLS is considered a sleeping disorder because the signs are induced when a person tries to fall asleep, and a movement disorder because moving the legs eases the symptoms. However, it is better described as a neurological sensory condition with signs that originate inside the brain.
Signs and Symptoms of RLS
Individuals with RLS usually experience strange sensations in their legs which include:
These symptoms are accompanied by a strong urge to move their legs in order to alleviate these feelings. RLS may also spread to your arms, legs, torso, and head. You may experience these sensations in:
- One half of the body
- One half of the body which then spreads to the other or
- Both sides of the body
RLS symptoms may vary from moderate to severe. They may occur intermittently, and the strength of each episode may vary. Evening and nighttime are often the worst times. RLS patients can often sleep soundly in the early hours of the morning, when their symptoms are virtually entirely gone.
Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
In most instances, no underlying cause has been linked to RLS. However, it has been discovered that RLS has a hereditary component and may be observed in households where symptoms first appear in patients under 40 years. According to scientific research, RLS has been linked to specific gene variations and may also be caused by low cerebral iron levels.
RLS has also been linked to a malfunction in the basal ganglia, a region of the brain that controls movement and uses specific hormones. Movement and muscular activation are both dependent on these hormones. Uncontrollable body motions are common when one of these channels is obstructed. RLS is more common in people with Parkinson's disease, a condition that affects the basal ganglia's pathways.
Some of the factors and underlying health issues that RLS has been linked to include:
- Chronic illnesses, which include Parkinson's disease, kidney failure, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy.
- Medications such as Anti-nausea medicines, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy treatments.
- Lack of sleep.
- Drinking alcohol and smoking
Treating Restless Legs Syndrome
Although there is no cure for restless legs syndrome, many remedies may help you enjoy a decent night's sleep by controlling the condition. If your doctor identifies iron deficiency as the cause of your RLS, they will treat it accordingly.
Your symptoms will be the primary focus during the RLS treatment. Some simple lifestyle modifications, such as regular exercise, a consistent sleep pattern, and abstaining from coffee, alcohol, and smoking may alleviate your restless legs. Other approaches to cure RLS without medicines include:
- Undergoing leg massages.
- Taking warm showers.
- Placing heating pads or ice packs on your legs.
- Using a vibrating pad on your legs.
It’s worth noting that some individuals benefit from medications. However, a medicine that alleviates symptoms in one individual may exacerbate them in another, and a treatment that has been effective in the past may eventually lose its effectiveness.