It Is Thought To Affect Up To 10% Of The Uk Population But Is Commonly Confused With Other Conditions With Similar Symptoms Heres How To Spot The Signs Of Restless Legs Syndrome And Stop An Episode In Its Tracks
If when in bed or relaxing, you notice an overwhelming urge to move your legs accompanied by a tickling sensation underneath your skin, you may be among the estimated 10% of people in the UK that suffers from restless legs syndrome .Although not life threatening, severe cases can cause huge disruption to a persons day-to-day life, manifesting as involuntary spasms in some, and because symptoms can worsen in the evenings and at night, poor quality sleep and insomnia in others. From its symptoms to its causes and treatments, heres how to spot the signs and reduce RLS episodes in the short and long-term.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome, otherwise known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common neurological condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. It can affect the arms, torso and other parts of the body, too, and have an impact on your quality of sleep. There are two recognised types. The first is primary or idiopathic RLS. While its exact cause is unknown, there is thought to be a genetic link . It tends to affect those under 40 and its progressive in nature, meaning that it worsens with age. The other type is secondary RLS, which is thought to be linked with certain medical conditions such as iron deficiency, and certain drugs and medications. Its symptoms tend to develop and come on quickly.
What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?
If its not restless legs syndrome, what else could it be?
To stop restless legs immediately
Avoid Alcohol And Cigarettes
Alcohol and cigarettes can bring on the symptoms of RLS and harm your sleep in other ways, too. A drink may make you drowsy at first, but you’re more likely to wake up during the night or have poor sleep that doesnât leave you feeling rested. The nicotine in cigarettes is what triggers RLS symptoms, so avoid cigars, “chew,” and any other tobacco products.
Ways To Fall Asleep With Restless Legs
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Why Does Restless Legs Happen In Pregnancy
Your body is doing amazing things during pregnancy and sometimes that comes with annoying side effects such as Restless Legs Syndrome.
Did you know that one study published in the Journal of Midwifery and Womens Health found that twenty-six percent of women will be affected by restless leg syndrome during pregnancy ?
Though it can happen any time in pregnancy, it is most common during the third trimester.
Treatment Of The Underlying Cause
For secondary RLS, the treatment of choice is to manage the underlying condition causing the problem.
Many RLS patients may be given dietary supplements of iron, magnesium, or folate to reduce symptoms. Iron, in particular, is vital to the bodys production of dopamine, so iron supplementation is a common treatment for RLS.
If RLS is medication-related, the person will be taken off that medication. And, finally, patients with kidney failure may be givenshort daily dialysis sessions to help reduce RLS symptoms.
RLS that occurs during pregnancy often resolves within four weeks after delivery.
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Rule Out Possible Causes
Sometimes, restless leg syndrome is due to an underlying cause. If you believe you have restless leg syndrome, you may be able to reverse the symptoms by ruling out things that could be potentially causing it. Here are a few possible underlying causes of RLS symptoms.
Certain lifestyle habits, such as the use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can increase the symptoms associated with restless leg syndrome. Limiting your consumption may help reduce your symptoms.
Taking some medication can worsen the symptoms associated with RLS. For instance, older medications, such as Benadryl can worsen symptoms. Antinausea drugs like Reglan and Compro can increase the symptoms of RLS as well. Other medications that can worsen symptoms include:
- Antipsychotic drugs
- Tricyclic antidepressants
There are some health conditions or medical history that have been found to increase the symptoms associated with RLS. For example, end-stage renal disease and nerve damage from diabetes have been linked to worsening symptoms of restless leg syndrome. It has also been said that an iron deficiency or strange iron levels can be a cause of RLS.
There are other things that may trigger RLS. For instance, some individuals have reported that eating too much sugar or wearing tight clothing triggers their restless leg syndrome.
Articles On Restless Legs Syndrome
In some cases, personal habits can make a sleeping disorder like restless legs syndrome worse. Sometimes they play a big role in the problem.
Here are 10 steps you can take to lessen the symptoms of RLS and get you sleeping better:
- Avoid or limit alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine for at least several hours before bedtime.
- Review all the medications you take with your doctor.
- Exercise every day.
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Leg Twitching At Night
Restless leg syndrome is sometimes associated with a more common condition called periodic limb movement in sleep. This condition causes the legs to kick and twitch. This movement may happen occasionally, but it can also occur throughout the night causing sleep disorder.
Many people living with restless leg syndrome describe the sensation as unpleasant and occurs throughout the legs and feet. Even more, this sensation occurs within the limbs rather than on the skin. The sensation/medical conditions can be described as:
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
With transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation , a device sends small electrical currents to parts of your body to help relieve pain.
Theres not a lot of research on the use of TENS to treat RLS, but it could work.
The idea is that like the Relaxis vibrating pad, it uses counterstimulation. One study showed that regular use of TENS along with a vibration treatment completely relieved one mans RLS symptoms (
However, more research is needed to confirm acupuncture as a reliable treatment for RLS.
Pregnancy And Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome affects between 20% and 30% of pregnant women. A primary cause of this is, not surprisingly, iron deficiency. Iron is an essential part of nutrition while pregnant because of the higher risks of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
Between this and the previously mentioned connection between RLS and iron deficiency, its not hard to figure out that connection. Working with your doctor to make sure youre keeping your iron levels up, as well as other essential vitamins, can help alleviate these symptoms.
Also, as long as your health permits and your doctor gives you the green light, light exercise helps, too, whether its walks, aerobics or other types of lower body exercises that help keep those muscles stimulated.
The good news, says Dr. Berkowski, is that if RLS wasnt an issue for you before pregnancy, chances are itll eventually fade within a few months after your pregnancy is over.
How Can Women Lower Restless Legs Risk While Pregnant
Getting rest when your limbs feel creepy-crawly can be a challenge, but sleep is essential for a healthy pregnancy and delivery. Thankfully, there are some steps that expecting women can take to lower risk and improve symptoms. If simple measures dont improve symptoms, there are some supplements and medications your health care provider can recommend.
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Incorporate Iron And Vitamin Supplements
Some research suggests that iron deficiencies could be linked to RLS. For this reason, it may be beneficial to incorporate iron supplements if your blood is low. But before taking iron supplementation, be sure to talk with your doctor and ask them to run a blood test to ensure you have a deficiency.
About Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system that causes an overwhelming, irresistible urge to move the legs.
It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs. The sensation is often worse in the evening or at night. Occasionally, the arms are affected too.
Restless legs syndrome is also associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements in sleep .
Some people have the symptoms of restless legs syndrome occasionally, while others have them every day. The symptoms can vary from mild to severe. In severe cases, restless legs syndrome can be very distressing and disrupt a person’s daily activities.
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What Are The Common Side Effects Of Restless Legs Syndrome Medication
All medications may have side effects, and different classes of medications have different side effects. However, this is not a complete list, and you should consult with your healthcare professional for possible side effects and drug interactions based on your specific situation.
Prescription dopamine agonists, gabapentinoids, and opioids all cause sleepiness, fatigue, confusion, and dizziness as common side effects.
Some severe side effects of dopamine agonists are hallucinations and serious impulse control problems, such as overeating or gambling recklessly. However, the most common serious side effects of dopamine agonists are augmentation and withdrawal.
Dopamine agonists have a high risk of withdrawal, called dopamine agonist withdrawal syndrome . Even when the drug is tapered, one out of five patients will experience psychiatric symptoms, such as anxiety, panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts, as well as physical symptoms, including pain, nausea, and drug cravings.
The most serious side effects of gabapentinoids and opioids are drug abuse and overdose. An overdose of either drug can be fatal, but gabapentinoids, unlike opioids, do not have an antidote.
Pain relievers such as over-the-counter NSAIDs and acetaminophen are widely available and safe. NSAIDs, unlike acetaminophen, interfere with blood clotting, so their most serious side effects are bruising and bleeding, which may present in the digestive system.
Can I Prevent Rls
Unfortunately, theres no scientifically proven way to prevent RLS, Grundland says. The good news is that it usually resolves when you deliver your baby. Although, she adds, if you experienced RLS during your pregnancy, theres a slight chance it may resurface later in life.
The only thing you can do if you discover you have RLS is to make yourself as comfortable as possible.
Treat yourself. Get the foot rubs, buy the pregnancy pillow, find the worlds most comfortable pyjamasdo what you can to make it more bearable, Patterson recommends. And know that its not forever.
Pattersons daughter is now 17 weeks, and happily its the baby, not her restless legs, whos keeping her up at night.
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How Is Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosed
Since there is no specific test for RLS, the condition is diagnosed by a doctors evaluation. The five basic criteria for clinically diagnosing the disorder are:
- A strong and often overwhelming need or urge to move the legs that is often associated with abnormal, unpleasant, or uncomfortable sensations.
- The urge to move the legs starts or get worse during rest or inactivity.
- The urge to move the legs is at least temporarily and partially or totally relieved by movements.
- The urge to move the legs starts or is aggravated in the evening or night.
- The above four features are not due to any other medical or behavioral condition.
Diagnosing RLS in children may be especially difficult, since it may be hard for children to describe what they are experiencing, when and how often the symptoms occur, and how long symptoms last. Pediatric RLS can sometimes be misdiagnosed as “growing pains” or attention deficit disorder.
What Tests Can Diagnose Restless Leg Syndrome
There is no definitive test that can diagnose RLS. The diagnosis is made based on your symptoms, however, there are many tests that your healthcare provider may recommend to attempt to find the cause of your RLS. Some possible testing may include lab work, a sleep study, and nerve conduction studies, but the most important test in my vascular office would be an ultrasound of the veins, either in the legs, the pelvis, or both. These vein ultrasounds are called venous Dopplers.
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Restless Legs Syndrome Medications
Medications are usually not required for mild or secondary restless legs syndrome other than supplements or OTC pain relievers. First-line treatments for chronic or severe RLS are dopamine agonists or gabapentinoids, anti-seizure drugs that can also relieve nerve pain. When all else fails, low doses of opioids can manage symptoms.
Adopt Healthy Sleeping Habits
Another way to reduce RLS symptoms is by adopting healthy sleeping habits. Its important to note that improving your sleeping habits may not improve your symptoms, but it may be able to help you combat the sleep you lose from your symptoms. With that said, you can try the following:
- Going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day
- Keep your sleeping environment dark and quiet
- Remove any distractions that can disrupt sleep, such as a TV
- Prevent any daytime sleepiness
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Check Your Bedding And Sleep Position
If you suffer from restless leg syndrome, your bed may be making your symptoms worse. If you keep your bedding tightly tucked under your mattress, you could be causing your toes to point as you sleep which can trigger your symptoms. Additionally, propping your feet up so they are higher than the torso can reduce your symptoms.
Options To Calming Rls
Diet is Critical to Calm RLS SymptomsBeing aware of the food and substances that you are putting into your body is probably one of the most important things that you can do in order to reduce your restless leg syndrome. There are many foods and substances that have a tendency to cause a flare up of your restless leg symptoms. Download our free guidebook on the list of trigger foods and look into the Paleo and FODMAP diets. These diets tend to be highly effective at helping reduce and even eliminate RLS symptoms. Some of the main foods to avoid consuming are sugar and salt in high quantities. These 2 foods tend to be among the biggest triggers which cause RLS symptoms to flare up.
What Can I Do Right Now?Yes, its 2 a.m. what can you do right now in order to calm your restless legs? Here are a few helpful things that you can do immediately in order to calm your legs.
Acupressure: The GB20 Point Without going too deep into the science of it, acupressure is a way to get the body to reset itself in order to function in a more balanced state. Applying gentle pressure or massage to this point will alleviate the factors that cause the body to twitch, spasm and jitter. It is a well known point for alleviating symptoms of RLS. Have someone massage these points for 10 minutes, or you can massage them yourself and give your body the reset it needs.
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Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms Causes & Treatments
Its estimated that restless leg syndrome affects more than one in 10 American adults every year . RLS is a condition characterized by uncomfortable feelings in your legs, giving you a strong urge to move them in order to find relief. Because symptoms tend to get worse overnight, RLS is associated with a higher risk for insomnia and daytime fatigue, plus increased use of sleep-aid medications, alcohol and caffeine.
Middle-aged women, including those going through or past menopause, tend to experience RLS more than any other population. Most people describe the symptoms of restless leg syndrome which can include experiencing jittery sensations, tingling, burning and aching in one or both legs as more annoying than actually painful. Some people equate the sensations associated with RLS as the feeling of bugs crawling up your leg. In other words, although its not very dangerous long term, RLS causes some downright unpleasant side effects.
The desire to quickly get RLS sensations to stop makes people twitch, jiggle or move their legs throughout the night, leading to poor sleep. The worst part is that moving the legs usually doesnt help RLS symptoms stay away for long they usually return pretty quickly, and the cycle continues.