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What Can You Do For Restless Leg Syndrome

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What Are Common Signs And Symptoms Of Restless Legs

What can relieve restless legs syndrome? | In Good Shape – talk

People with RLS feel the irresistible urge to move, which is accompanied by uncomfortable sensations in their lower limbs that are unlike normal sensations experienced by people without the disorder. The sensations in their legs are often difficult to define but may be described as aching throbbing, pulling, itching, crawling, or creeping. These sensations less commonly affect the arms, and rarely the chest or head. Although the sensations can occur on just one side of the body, they most often affect both sides. They can also alternate between sides. The sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.

Because moving the legs relieves the discomfort, people with RLS often keep their legs in motion to minimize or prevent the sensations. They may pace the floor, constantly move their legs while sitting, and toss and turn in bed.

A classic feature of RLS is that the symptoms are worse at night with a distinct symptom-free period in the early morning, allowing for more refreshing sleep at that time. Some people with RLS have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. They may also note a worsening of symptoms if their sleep is further reduced by events or activity.

People with RLS can sometimes experience remissionsspontaneous improvement over a period of weeks or months before symptoms reappearusually during the early stages of the disorder. In general, however, symptoms become more severe over time.

Tips For Coping With Restless Legs Syndrome

Learning to recognize and avoid your personal triggers can help you manage RLS over time.

Effective techniques for minimizing RLS symptoms vary from person to person. Many people find relief from keeping active throughout the day and using acupuncture, massage, stretching, or relaxation techniques at night. During the day, you may be able to ward off RLS symptoms by keeping your mind busy even when you are sitting still with activities like reading or chatting to a friend.

Though RLS is not life-threatening, the frustration of not being able to sleep well can take a toll on mental health. Cognitive behavioral therapy, support groups, or reaching out to family and friends may provide additional emotional resources for coping with RLS.

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What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome

In most cases, the cause of RLS is unknown . However, RLS has a genetic component and can be found in families where the onset of symptoms is before age 40. Specific gene variants have been associated with RLS. Evidence indicates that low levels of iron in the brain also may be responsible for RLS.

Considerable evidence also suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in one of the sections of the brain that control movement that use the brain chemical dopamine. 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 increased chance of developing RLS.

RLS also appears to be related to or accompany the following factors or underlying conditions:

  • end-stage renal disease and hemodialysis
  • iron deficiency
  • certain medications that may aggravate RLS symptoms, such as antinausea drugs , antipsychotic drugs , antidepressants that increase serotonin , and some cold and allergy medications that contain older antihistamines
  • use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • pregnancy, especially in the last trimester in most cases, symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery
  • neuropathy .

Sleep deprivation and other sleep conditions like sleep apnea also may aggravate or trigger symptoms in some people. Reducing or completely eliminating these factors may relieve symptoms.

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Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosis

Thereâs no medical test for RLS. Your doctor might want to talk to your sleep partner about what theyâve noticed.

The five basic criteria for a diagnosis of RLS are:

  • An overwhelming urge to move your legs, especially along with uncomfortable or unusual feelings
  • An urge that starts or gets worse while youâre at rest
  • An urge that goes away, either partly or totally, when you move
  • An urge that starts or gets worse in the evening
  • Another condition, such as leg cramps, arthritis, or muscle pains, isnât causing it

Your doctor may use lab tests to rule out other conditions. A neurological exam can check for nerve damage or blood vessel problems. A sleep study called polysomnography can tell them if you have other sleep disorders that might cause RLS.

Primary Or Idiopathic Rls

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown.

It is the most common type and has the following characteristics:

  • It usually begins before the age of 40.
  • It can start as early as childhood.
  • It may have a genetic cause.
  • Once primary RLS starts, it tends to be lifelong.

Symptoms may be sporadic, or gradually worsen and become more prevalent over time.

In mild cases, the person may have no symptoms for a long time.

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When To Seek Help

Of course, home remedies have their limits. If these ideas dont work for you and they dont work for everyone dont hesitate to seek out the advice of a sleep expert.

Not everyone with restless legs needs to see a doctor, but severe cases can be debilitating. Some people feel so desperate and helpless, Dr. Berkowski says, as their lack of sleep can cause depression and anxiety.

He says to consult a doctor if either of the following applies to you:

  • Your difficulties falling or staying asleep lead to you feeling sleepy or unrefreshed.
  • Your sleep is disrupted at least two or three times a week.

If these home remedies still fall short, your doctor can provide you with more information about the potential prescription medicines that can help.

Check Your Medicine Cabinet

There are many common medicationsboth prescription and over-the-counterthat can trigger the symptoms of RLS or make them worse. Medications to watch out for include:

  • Cold and allergy medications containing antihistamines .
  • Anti-nausea medications .
  • Calcium channel blockers .
  • Antidepressants .
  • Antipsychotics .

Get checked for iron and vitamin deficiencies

A number of vitamin and mineral deficiencies are linked to restless legs syndrome.

Iron. Iron deficiency is a well-known cause of RLS, so ask your doctor to test you for anemia. However, supplementing with iron can also improve RLS symptoms in those who arent anemic.

Magnesium. Magnesium can improve sleep and some studies have shown it to be beneficial for restless legs. Try experimenting with a magnesium supplement at bedtime to see if your symptoms improve.

Vitamin D. Recent studies show that RLS symptoms are more frequent and more severe in people with vitamin D deficiency. Your doctor can easily test your vitamin D levels or you can simply make it a point to get out more in the sun.

Folate . Folate deficiency has been linked to RLS, which may explain why restless legs are so common in pregnant women . When folic acid is low, B12 is often low as well, so you may want to try supplementing with a B-complex vitamin.

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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.

Is Restless Legs Syndrome Affecting Your Sleep

How to Treat Restless Leg Syndrome at Home | WebMD

You may know it as the urge to move or jerk your legs when youre sitting or lying still, especially at night. Restless legs syndrome occurs when brain cells send false signals of pain, discomfort, tingling and itchiness to nerve endings in the legs . Moving your legs turns off these signals, but the creepy-crawly sensations return as soon as youre still again.

The syndrome is thought to result from an overproduction of the brain chemical dopamine during the day, which leads to an underproduction at night. Heres what to do if your itchy, jerking legs keep you awake at night.

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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.

Home Remedies For Restless Legs Syndrome

Home remedies offer a simple way to improve RLS symptoms. Though more research is needed to confirm how effective these methods are, many people with mild to moderate RLS symptoms find relief from a combination of the following:

  • Moving the legs: Moving the affected body part usually leads to relief from uncomfortable sensations, though symptoms may return when movement ceases.
  • Implementing healthy sleep hygiene habits: RLS can cause sleep loss , but its also exacerbated by sleep problems. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule and ask your doctor for personalized sleep hygiene tips.
  • Avoiding tobacco and eating a healthy diet: The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation recommends reducing alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and salt and following a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals. In addition to relieving RLS symptoms, a healthy diet can help improve sleep quality.
  • Exercising: Moderate exercise and stretching may help reduce RLS symptoms. That said, people with RLS should be careful with high-intensity activity, which may cause muscle cramps and stiffness that can exacerbate symptoms.
  • Receiving massages or self-massaging: Some people find relief from RLS symptoms after massaging affected areas.
  • Using heat or cold: RLS-related discomfort can often be tamed by applying a hot or cold compress or taking a warm bath before bed. Response to temperature may vary from person to person.

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Restless Legs Syndrome Medication

Medication is currently considered the gold standard for people with moderate to severe RLS. To reduce the risk of unpleasant side effects, always work with a doctor to find the medication thats right for you.

People with RLS resulting from another condition, or those with another consideration such as pregnant women, children, people with anxiety or depression, or individuals with kidney disease, may need to exercise extra caution when taking medication.

RLS can be treated with several different families of medications, the most common being dopamine agonists and anti-seizure drugs.

Can Restless Leg Syndrome Be Prevented Or Avoided

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RLS cant be prevented because doctors arent sure what causes it. But there are some things you can do to help lessen your symptoms.

Lifestyle changes to treat RLS:

  • For mild symptoms, use an over-the-counter pain reliever to reduce twitching and restless sensations.
  • Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco.
  • Try taking a hot bath and massaging your legs before bedtime to help you relax.
  • Relaxation techniques, such as meditation and yoga, can help you relax before bed.
  • Apply warm or cool packs to your legs, which can help relieve sensations.
  • Try to distract your mind by reading or doing a crossword puzzle while you wait for sleep to come.
  • Moderate exercise may help, but dont overdo it. Exercising vigorously or late in the day may make symptoms worse.
  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. Also try to get a sufficient amount of sleep each night.

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Signs And Symptoms Of Restless Legs Syndrome

Not only do the signs and symptoms of restless legs syndrome differ from person to person, but they can be tricky to describe. Common descriptions include: a creepy-crawly feeling, tingling, itching, prickling, burning, pulling, tugging, and aching. Some people have said it feels like bugs are crawling up their legs, a fizzy soda is bubbling through their veins, or they have a deep bone itch. Sometimes the symptoms are painful, but usually they are simply uncomfortable and disturbing.

Tip : Improve Your Sleep

The symptoms of restless legs syndrome can make it hard to get to sleep. When youre sleep deprived, you not only feel terrible, but youre more vulnerable to stress. Stress and fatigue can worsen RLS, making it a vicious cycle, so doing what it takes to get enough sleep is crucial.

Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. It may prevent nerves in your legs from compressing and result in fewer nighttime RLS symptoms.

Stick to a regular sleep schedule. Support your bodys natural sleep rhythms by going to bed and getting up at the same time every day .

Optimize your bedroom for sleep. Make sure the room is dark , quiet, and cool.

Wind down with a relaxing bedtime routine. Try curling up in bed with a book, listening to calming music, or taking a hot bath .

Power down electronics 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light from screens suppresses sleep-promoting hormones and stimulates your brain.

Keep a sleep diary of RLS symptoms

Logging changes in your diet, lifestyle, sleep habits, and routine might help you make helpful connections between your daily activities and the quality of your sleep at night..

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Wake Forest Baptist Sleep Disorders Center

The Wake Forest Baptist Sleep Disorders Center is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Our multidisciplinary team is made up of board-certified sleep specialists from neurology, pulmonary disease and pediatrics. Our team of sleep experts performs sleep studies and multiple sleep latency tests , and provides education, advice and assistance to patients and referring physicians regarding the latest testing and treatments available for all types of sleep disorders.

Pregnancy And Restless Legs Syndrome

How to Treat Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

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.

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Stretching And Movement Tips

Keeping your body physically active is a great way to lessen RLS symptoms. When you are immobile for too long , this is when those creepy sensations can start up. Try these stretching and movement tips:

  • Go walking for lunch. Take your sandwich and head to the park down the street.
  • Jog in place to give your circulation a boost.
  • If you sit down a lot for work, get up and walk around for five minutes every hour.
  • Right when you get out of bed in the morning and right before you hit the sack at night, take some time to stretch your legs.
  • If on a road trip, stop every hour or so for a stretch.
  • If flying in a plane, request an aisle seat. When it is safe to do so, walk up and down the aisles a couple times every so often.

When To See A Doctor

While home remedies for restless legs syndrome may be helpful, Dr. Matta stresses that it’s always important to see a doctor about your symptoms. In some cases, RLS can be caused by kidney disease or iron-deficiency anemia, so treating the underlying cause can cure the RLS.

Additionally, your doctor may recommend seeing a sleep disorder specialist, who can help with additional strategies, especially if your sleep is being severely disrupted.

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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.

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