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How Do You Get Restless Leg Syndrome

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What Are The Symptoms

How to Sleep with Restless Leg Syndrome

The most prominent symptom of RLS is the overwhelming urge to move your legs, especially when youre sitting still or lying in bed. You might also feel unusual sensations like a tingling, crawling, or pulling sensation in your legs. Movement may relieve these sensations.

If you have mild RLS, symptoms may not occur every night. And you might attribute these movements to restlessness, nervousness, or stress.

A more severe case of RLS is challenging to ignore. It can complicate the simplest activities, like going to the movies. A long plane ride can also be difficult.

People with RLS are likely to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep because symptoms are worse at night. Daytime sleepiness, fatigue, and sleep deprivation can harm your physical and emotional health.

Symptoms usually affect both sides of the body, but some people have them on only one side. In mild cases, symptoms may come and go. RLS can also affect other parts of the body, including your arms and head. For most people with RLS, symptoms worsen with age.

People with RLS often use movement as a way to relieve symptoms. That might mean pacing the floor or tossing and turning in bed. If you sleep with a partner, it may well be disturbing their sleep as well.

Surgery For Varicose Veins

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Varicose veins are enlarged blood vessels, often in the legs, that overfill with blood. This increased amount of blood can lead to superficial venous insufficiency , which means your body cant properly circulate blood. As a result, the blood pools in your legs.

In a 2008 study, 35 people with SVI and RLS had a procedure called endovenous laser ablation to treat their varicose veins. Of the 35 people, 84 percent of them had their RLS symptoms significantly improved or completely eliminated by the surgery .

Again, more research is needed on this surgery as a treatment for RLS.


If youre interested in any of these less-researched treatments, ask your doctor about them. Of course, you can try hot and cold treatments on your own, but your doctor can tell you more about the other treatments and whether they might be able to help you.

Causes And Risk Factors Of Restless Legs Syndrome

Dopamine is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements. Individuals with Parkinsons disease, another disorder of the basal ganglias dopamine pathways, have an increased chance of developing RLS.

When the cause is unknown, the disorder is called primary RLS. When restless legs syndrome is caused by another disease or condition, or is a side effect of certain medications, the disorder is known as secondary RLS.

  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney failure

Medications that may aggravate RLS symptoms include:

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Restless Leg Syndrome In Children

Children can experience the same tingling and pulling sensations in their legs as adults with RLS. But they may have a hard time describing it. They might call it a creepy crawly feeling.

Children with RLS also have an overwhelming urge to move their legs. Theyre more likely than adults to have symptoms during the day.

RLS can interfere with sleep, which can affect every aspect of life. A child with RLS may seem inattentive, irritable, or fidgety. They may be labeled disruptive or hyperactive. Diagnosing and treating RLS can help address these problems and improve school performance.

To diagnose RLS in children up to age 12, the adult criteria must be met:

  • overwhelming urge to move, usually accompanied by strange sensations
  • symptoms worsen at night
  • symptoms are triggered when you try to relax or sleep
  • symptoms ease up when you move

Additionally, the child must be able to describe the leg sensations in their own words.

Otherwise, two of these must be true:

  • Theres a clinical sleep disturbance for age.
  • A biological parent or sibling had RLS.
  • A sleep study confirms a periodic limb movement index of five or more per hour of sleep.

Any dietary deficiencies must be addressed. Children with RLS should avoid caffeine and develop good bedtime habits.

If necessary, medications that affect dopamine, benzodiazepines, and anticonvulsants may be prescribed.

How Often Do Symptoms Occur

Restless Leg Syndrome

The frequency of symptoms can vary from person to person. Moderate cases of RLS typically see symptoms occur about once or twice a week, while severe cases may cause symptoms to appear more than two times a week.

Sometimes RLS symptoms may go away for weeks or months at a time before reappearing. This typically happens in the early stages of developing this condition.

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Could Rls Be Linked To Anything Else

Restless legs syndrome is considered both a sleep and movement disorder. But at its root, it is a neurological disorder, with symptoms originating in the brain. Dr. Lee-Iannotti stated, we have found RLS to be related to low production of dopamine, a powerful chemical affecting motor skills and many other functions of your brain. This gives us reason to believe that RLS may be linked to Parkinsons Disease, a degenerative condition that can cause tremors and other motor impairments.

Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome

No laboratory test can confirm a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome. To diagnose RLS, your doctor will need:

  • A complete medical history.
  • A diagnostic interview, to rule out other medical conditions.
  • A blood test for low iron levels.
  • A list of medications and supplements youre taking.
  • A survey to see if anyone else in your family has similar symptoms.

If a medical condition, such as iron deficiency, diabetes, or nerve damage is triggering your restless legs, treating the underlying problem may relieve your symptoms. If not, you may benefit from medication or other treatments.

Health conditions linked to restless legs

  • Iron deficiency .

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Symptoms Make It Hard To Fall Asleep Or Stay Asleep

A substantial number of people who have RLS also have periodic limb movements in sleep . PLMS are repetitive movements that occur every 20 to 30 seconds on and off throughout the night and can cause partial awakenings that disrupt sleep.

If you feel like these symptoms or others make it hard to fall or stay asleep, you’re not aloneit’s often one of the chief complaints among people with restless legs syndrome.

It’s not, however, one of the four criteria necessary for diagnosis.

Does Rls Lead To Parkinsons Disease

Restless Legs Syndrome and how to stretch it out.

For folks who have persistent RLS, they may be concerned that this condition is an early warning sign of Parkinsons Disease.

The American Parkinson Disease Association reports that the majority of people with RLS do not develop Parkinsons Disease. They add that while some studies have shown RLS creates an increased risk of PD, other studies have not shown this result. Because the studies have produced inconsistent results, there is no conclusive evidence that experiencing Restless Legs Syndrome means that a person is at a higher risk for developing Parkinsons Disease.

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What Are Home Remedies For Restless Leg Syndrome

Other treatments that have been helpful for some people with restless leg syndrome include:

  • Warm/cold baths
  • Acupuncture
  • Natural treatments such as quinine water at bedtime
  • Anxiety may trigger or increase RLS symptoms according to some researchers. Some people have experienced a decrease in anxiety by using over-the-counter products and natural home remedies and naturopathic treatments for anxiety, for example, lavender soap fumes or acupuncture. These natural treatments may reduce symptoms of RLS.
  • Some of these natural remedies to reduce symptom of restless leg syndrome and may cause side effects. Discuss any problems or side effects you have after using home remedies or alternative treatments for restless leg syndrome with your doctor.

    Deep Breathing Can Help

    Stress and Restless Leg Syndrome

    As with many medical conditions, stress aggravates restless leg syndrome and makes things worse. Stress is associated with higher levels of cortisol and other inflammatory markers, all of which aggravate RLS. Successful restless legs syndrome treatment incorporates stress reduction techniques. Thankfully, there are many ways to combat stress, all of which may help your RLS.

    Less Stress Success

    Everyone should incorporate stress reduction practices into their daily routine. If you have a condition that is worsened by stress, it’s even more important to make an effort to reduce stress levels. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing can very quickly activate the parasympathetic nervous system, the branch of the nervous system that is responsible for the “rest and digest” functions of the body. Mindfulness meditation is easy to learn and promotes reduced stress and lower levels of inflammation. Listening to soothing music is a nice way to unwind and distress at the end of a long day.

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    Skip Cigarettes And Nightcaps

    Skip the Nightcap

    It might be tempting to reach for a drink to help you slumber, but it’s actually counterproductive. Alcohol interferes with the quality of your sleep and may provoke sleep apnea, as well as symptoms of the condition at hand. Try a hot cup of tea or a warm glass of milk before bed instead. Herbal teas like chamomile, lemon balm, and passionflower can help you relax and drift off to sleep. Having a cup of tea or warm milk before bed every evening can become a habit that helps you associate the activity with winding down. Make sure the tea you choose does not contain caffeine. Evening caffeine consumption is too stimulating and may keep you up at night. Milk is high in tryptophan, an amino acid that’s used to make the calming neurotransmitter, serotonin. Drinking a warm glass of milk before bedtime may give you the natural tryptophan boost you need to drift off to sleep.

    Snuff Out the Cigarettes

    Tobacco is another substance that can trigger RLS symptoms or make them worse. Smoking and tobacco aren’t good for anyone, especially if you have this disease. Nicotine is a stimulant that affects the nervous system. Abstain from nicotine use of all types including smoking cigarettes and cigars and chewing tobacco. If you need help quitting, nicotine gums and patches are available to help you wean off slowly. Talk to your doctor if you need help quitting tobacco products.

    Maintain A Consistent Bedtime

    What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

    Having a Routine Helps

    Everyone, regardless of whether they have restless leg syndrome, slumbers better when they go to bed and wake up at approximately the same time every day. The body functions best when we stick to a schedule and have a predictable routine. Maintaining consistent sleep and wake times helps minimize fatigue and reduces your chances of experiencing the exhausting problems associated with this disorder. Aim to get at least 7 to 8 hours per night, or more if you need it. Then prioritize your life so you get the snooze time you need to keep restlessness at bay.

    Helpful Bedtime Practices

    Certain activities will help you drift off more easily. Sipping a cup of tea, taking a warm bath, and reading a relaxing book can help you wind down and fall asleep. Avoid reading anything too stimulating. Indulging in complex or frightening reading before bed may not be helpful. Another health tip is to avoid emotionally charged conversations in the evening. Emotional upset may prevent you from falling asleep and staying asleep.

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    Restless Legs Syndrome And Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

    Most people who have RLS also have a condition called periodic limb movement disorder . PLMD involves repetitive flexing or twitching of the limbs while asleep at night. It is different from RLS in that these movements are not accompanied by uncomfortable sensations and because they occur during sleep, patients are often not aware of them. However, PLMD-associated movements can cause a person to wake up and therefore can compound sleep issues in patients who also have RLS.

    Although most people with RLS have PLMD, many with PLMD do not have RLS.

    Restless Legs Syndrome: Seeking Help

    Studies estimate that one out of 10 people suffer from restless legs, yet its not always easy to find help and support. Many people with RLS never receive proper treatment. Part of the problem is that its hard to explain and sufferers are often dismissed as being nervous. Those who havent experienced the distressing symptoms may not understand how severely they can impact the quality of your life. Even doctors may not take restless legs seriously, recognize the symptoms, or realize that they point to a real medical condition.

    The good news is that recent research has increased our understanding of restless legs syndrome, leading to more effective treatments. At the same time, RLS is becoming more widely recognized. If you or your partner suffers from restless legs, theres never been a better time to find relief.

    A night in the life of RLS

    If you have restless legs syndrome, a typical night might go like this: You lie down in bed, ready to go to sleep, and just as your body begins to relax, the crawling, tingling, or itching in your legs begin. You try to ignore the uncomfortable sensations, hoping they will go away, but eventually the urge to move is too much. You get out of bed to stretch and pace the floor and, for a moment, you find relief. But when you lie down again, the restless sensations in your legs start all over again.

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    What Is Restless Leg Syndrome

    Restless Leg Syndrome is an often uncontrollable urge to twitch and move your legs especially when sitting or lying down. It isnt curable and the cause is unclear, but its a neurological problem that researchers theorize may result from a lack of iron in the brain or a physiological in processing and using iron. Its associated with diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, and iron deficiency. Tobacco, caffeine, and obesity tend to make restless leg syndrome worse.

    Restless Legs Syndrome Prevention Tips

    How to Treat Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
    • Consume foods enriched with vitamins and minerals like folic acid, iron, magnesium, and vitamin B
    • Perform moderate regular exercise as excessive strenuous activity may stimulate restless leg syndrome
    • Stretch your legs and body often during long car trips or flights
    • Take a short walk and stretch your legs mid to late afternoon fatigue to boost energy instead of having caffeine
    • Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks after dinner
    • Maintain a regular sleep schedule every night, even on the weekends
    • Avoid long naps in the afternoon

    Restless leg syndrome causes the nerves of the legs to move involuntarily. This may present as a constant itchiness or a pins and needles sensation in the legs and possibly the arms.

    As the urge to move the legs is usually prevalent during rest, such as at night, this syndrome is also considered a sleep disorder.

    While many cases of restless legs syndrome may be treated with prescribed and over-the-counter medications, you can also alleviate symptoms with simple lifestyle changes, exercises, and natural home remedies.

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    If Im Pregnant Are My Dietary Needs The Same

    According to a 2009 study, up to 26 percent of pregnant women have RLS. The exact cause isnt clear, but changing hormones, low dopamine levels, and nutrient deficiencies may be responsible.

    If youre pregnant and have RLS symptoms, you should talk to your doctor about getting your iron levels checked. If theyre low, your doctor may recommend eating more iron-rich foods or taking iron supplements.

    If diet and lifestyle changes dont help, your doctor may prescribe antiepileptic drugs, opioids, and certain benzodiazepines. According to a 2008 study, these drugs are safe to use during pregnancy. Because all drugs pass through the placenta to your unborn baby, you should use the least amount necessary for the shortest amount of time.

    In many cases, pregnancy-related RLS goes away on its own after your baby is born.

    What Is Restless Legs Syndrome Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention

    Restless legs syndrome is a disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs, usually to alleviate unpleasant sensations.

    Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, RLS occurs when the legs are at rest and is typically most severe in the evening and night, potentially disrupting a person’s sleep and affecting daily activities.

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    What Research Is Being Done

    The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. The NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.

    While the direct cause of RLS is often unknown, changes in the brains signaling pathways are likely to contribute to the disease. In particular, researchers suspect that impaired transmission of dopamine signals in the brains basal ganglia may play a role. There is a relationship between genetics and RLS. However, currently there is no genetic testing. NINDS-supported research is ongoing to help discover genetic relationships and to better understand what causes the disease.

    The NINDS also supports research on why the use of dopamine agents to treat RLS, Parkinsons disease, and other movement disorders can lead to impulse control disorders, with aims to develop new or improved treatments that avoid this adverse effect.

    More information about research on RLS supported by NINDS or other components of the NIH is available through the NIH RePORTER , a searchable database of current and previously funded research, as well as research results such as publications.

    Treatment Of Restless Legs Syndrome

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    Treatment for RLS includes medicines and lifestyle changes. Medicines used to treat Parkinsons disease can help reduce tremors and twitching in the legs. If your iron levels are low, your doctor may prescribe an iron supplement.

    In some cases, an anticonvulsant medicine can be helpful. Historically, sleep aids, muscle relaxants , and pain medicines have been prescribed by doctors to relieve symptoms. Use of these medicines is becoming more and more limited for RLS because of their known side effects and potential drawbacks. Opioids, if not taken exactly as instructed by your doctor, can be addictive.

    For many cases of RLS, a combination of medicines is usually needed to best treat the condition. Your doctor may prescribe several trials of medicine before finding one that works best for your case of RLS.

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