Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is aptly named for its main manifestation – an uncontrollable urge to constantly move your legs. It is a neurological condition that causes leg discomfort and occurs mostly during moments of inactivity such watching TV, travelling long distances, during relaxation exercises, or when you are trying to rest. But RLS’s most notorious feature is a progressive worsening at night when trying to sleep.
If left untreated, restless leg syndrome can increasingly compromise the ability to sleep and can lead to exhaustion and fatigue from severe sleep deprivation. Sleep is the brain’s way of switching off and rebooting. It’s also a time of healing and repair for the heart and various blood vessels. Lack of sleep means that not only do we miss out on a proper night’s sleep, but our brain and body doesn’t get the time it needs to reset and rejuvenate. This can lead to a number of different adverse effects including difficulties with focus, memory loss, a weakening of the immune system as well as the onset of other chronic conditions such as depression or heart disease.
Typically characterized by a sensation or discomfort in the legs, RLS can be described as a crawling, creeping, pulling, throbbing, aching, or itching inside of the limb. The sensation usually starts after the limb has been at rest, followed by an uncontrollable urge to move it by stretching, walking, pacing or jiggling it. Although these symptoms are typically at their worst at night when trying to fall asleep, some individuals experience a period of ease in the early morning hours. Although most common in the legs, in some rare instances, these symptoms may also effect the arms, head, or neck.
RLS is not considered a life threatening disorder, but can become incapacitating. Sleep deprivation from RLS compromises a person’s ability to go about day-to-day life. It can make it difficult to concentrate at work, to drive, to read, or to simply engage with others.
Restless leg syndrome can develop at any age including childhood, but is more common in older people, and although it affects both men and women, is found to be more prevalent in women. There is no known cause for restless leg syndrome although some researchers suspect that it may have something to do with an imbalance of dopamine in the brain which is the chemical responsible for conveying messages and signaling muscle movement. It may also be an indication of a more serious underlying condition such as nerve damage, an iron deficiency, kidney failure, or other types of movement and neurology disorders.
If caused by an underlying condition, treating that condition usually leads to improvement. In some instances, prescription medications that are typically used to treat other movement disorders can also be used to manage the condition. Exercise, massage, and relaxation techniques have also been known to help.
Understanding the contributing factors and the best ways in which the disorder can be managed is vital to healing. Our team of neurology experts are always on hand to discuss any discomfort you might be experiencing in order to design a treatment and care option that best suits your unique circumstances.