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What Is Restless Leg Syndrome And What Causes It

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Sleep Hygiene For Restless Legs Syndrome

Sleep hygiene is important, as makes symptoms worse.

Tips include:

  • Sleeping in a cool, quiet bedroom.
  • Going to bed at the same time every night, and getting up at the same time every morning.
  • Reduce the amount of light you are exposed to for an hour before bed.
  • Avoid stimulating drinks, such as caffeine or sugar.
  • Avoiding or reducing alcohol consumption and tobacco.

Exercise and physical activity can help RLS, but it can also aggravate it. Most patients find moderate exercise helpful, but too much can make symptoms worse. Working out late in the evening may also be unhelpful.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome

More often than not, the cause of RLS is a mystery. There may be a genetic predisposition and an environmental trigger.

More than 40 percent of people with RLS have some family history of the condition. In fact, there are five gene variants associated with RLS. When it runs in the family, symptoms usually start before age 40.

There may be a connection between RLS and low levels of iron in the brain, even when blood tests show that your iron level is normal.

RLS may be linked to a disruption in the dopamine pathways in the brain. Parkinsons disease is also related to dopamine. That may explain why many people with Parkinsons also have RLS. Some of the same medications are used to treat both conditions. Research on these and other theories is ongoing.

Its possible that certain substances like caffeine or alcohol can trigger or intensify symptoms. Other potential causes include medications to treat:

  • allergies
  • depression
  • psychosis

Primary RLS isnt related to an underlying condition. But RLS can actually be an offshoot of another health problem, like neuropathy, diabetes, or kidney failure. When thats the case, treating the main condition may resolve RLS issues.

There are certain things that may put you in a higher risk category for RLS. But its uncertain if any of these factors actually cause RLS.

Some of them are:

Having RLS can affect your overall health and quality of life. If you have RLS and chronic sleep deprivation, you may be a higher risk of:

  • heart disease

Living With Restless Leg Syndrome

Keep your doctor posted on how youre feeling. He or she can suggest different relaxation techniques and can change your medicine if its not helping. You may want to join a support group to talk to other people who are suffering from RLS. Also, because RLS tends to run in families, you may want to talk to your relatives about your RLS and see if they have similar symptoms.

Restless Leg Syndrome And Pregnancy

Symptoms of RLS can spring up for the first time during pregnancy, usually in the last trimester. Data suggests that pregnant women may have two or three times higher risk of RLS.

The reasons for this arent well-understood. Some possibilities are vitamin or mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, or nerve compression.

Pregnancy can also cause leg cramps and difficulty sleeping. These symptoms can be hard to distinguish from RLS. If youre pregnant and have symptoms of RLS, talk to your doctor. You may need to be tested for iron or other deficiencies.

You can also try some of these home care techniques:

  • Avoid sitting still for prolonged periods, especially in the evening.
  • Try to get a little exercise every day, even if its just an afternoon walk.
  • Massage your legs or perform leg stretching exercises before bed.
  • Try using heat or cold on your legs when theyre bothering you.
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Avoid antihistamines, caffeine, smoking, and alcohol.
  • Make sure youre getting all the nutrients you need from your diet or from prenatal vitamins.

Some of the medications used to treat RLS are not safe to use during pregnancy.

RLS in pregnancy usually goes away on its own within weeks after giving birth. If it doesnt, see your doctor about other remedies. Be sure to mention if you are breast-feeding.

Treating Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless Legs Syndrome Shown & Explained Using A Medical ...

Mild cases of restless legs syndrome that are not linked to an underlying health condition may not require any treatment, other than making a few lifestyle changes.

These include:

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need medication to regulate the levels of dopamine and iron in your body.

If restless legs syndrome is caused by iron deficiency anaemia, iron supplements may be all that’s needed to treat the symptoms.

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 Leg Syndrome Signs And Symptoms

The most common and evident symptoms of the restless leg syndrome:

  • Pain in the legs. 
  • Discomfort is more pronounced while lying in the bed or resting. 
  • A constant urge to move the legs and relief with movement.
  • Tingling, and crawling sensations in the legs.
  • Twitching of legs at night/bedtime.

In most cases, patients are unable to explain the exact sensations. According to subjects, the sensation is more of an urge to move the legs without any associated muscle cramps or spasms. For patients who have an associated condition i.e.Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep experience leg twitching and jerking during sleep. The symptoms are not persistent too. For some, the symptoms come and go or fluctuate in severity.

Patients suffering from a mild form of the disease have reported difficulty in keeping the legs in the same posture for longer periods. However, in severe cases the patients also suffer through complications arising from the disease that manifest themselves as:

  • Fatigue

suggest that RLS causes changes in the spinal cord and leads to hyperexcitability of neurons.

Common Problems With Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome

Many cases go undiagnosed because:

  • Many people do not seek a doctor’s help when they have symptoms.
  • Most people visit a doctor during the day, when symptoms are not present or are only mild.
  • Some doctors do not recognize the condition and may believe that the symptoms are caused by other conditions, such as insomnia, stress, muscle cramps, or arthritis.

Restless legs syndrome does occur in children but it is hard to diagnose for the same reasons. Children often are not able to describe their symptoms. A parent’s observations of the child’s behaviour and sleep may be helpful. Knowing that a parent or other close relative has restless legs syndrome can also help the doctor make a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome in the child.

How Long Will Restless Legs Syndrome Last

Symptoms of primary or idiopathic RLS typically worsen over time, but, for some people, weeks or months may pass without any symptoms. If the RLS stems from a condition, illness, pregnancy, or medication, it may go away as soon as the trigger has gone.

RLS can pose problems for women during pregnancy.

Women who already have RLS can find that symptoms get worse during pregnancy. However, becoming pregnant can lead to RLS in its own right. Symptoms tend to get worse as the pregnancy progresses and are especially likely in the third trimester.

The cause of the increased incidence of RLS during pregnancy is unknown, but the following factors are believed to be involved:

  • low levels of minerals or , such as iron and
  • sleep deprivation as a result of changes in the body and discomfort
  • changes in the hormones
  • increased sensitivity of the senses

This condition has not been widely researched during pregnancy. However, some of the drug treatments used outside of pregnancy, such as rotigotine and gabapentin, have not been assessed for safe use in women who are pregnant.

Behavioral treatments, such as mild exercise and a healthy sleeping pattern, are often recommended as a first-line treatment for women during pregnancy.

If iron levels are low and thought to be the cause of RLS, oral iron supplements are safe to prescribe during pregnancy. In severe cases, higher concentrations may be administered intravenously through a drip.


There are two main types of RLS:

Common Drugs To Treat Restless Legs

Currently, there are four drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat moderate to severe cases Restless Leg Syndrome. Two of them work to stimulate the brains dopamine receptors, and the other two work to block nerve pain.

Depending on other symptoms you have with RLS, your physician may prescribe one of these:

  • Ropinirole

After three months, you can expect us to:

  • Order an ultrasound, if one wasnt done at six weeks
  • Discuss the ending of your anticoagulation therapy
  • Continue to monitor for improvement

Other Conditions To Consider

Polysomnography and related sleep study tests may also be done to help identify problems that can interfere with sleep. You may be evaluated for other conditions with symptoms similar to restless legs syndrome. These conditions include varicose veins, , or intermittent claudication .

You also may be asked about behaviours, habits, and physical traits that may be related, such as:

Consequences Of Ekboms Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome has a serious impact on a persons quality of life and well-being:

  • Physical consequences: sleep disturbances, exhaustion, headache, muscle, and joint problems, etc.
  • Psychological consequences: mood swings, nervousness, irritability, depression, anxiety, anxiety, apathy, problems with concentration,memory problems, etc. The anxiety and depressive effects increase due to fatigue as the physical condition deteriorates. Therefore, in addition to medical care, a mental health professional may be required.
  • Social consequences: disruption of daily activities, misunderstanding on the part of relatives, low labor productivity , a tendency towards solitude and isolation, etc.

What Is Restless Leg Syndrome And What Causes It

Restless Leg Syndrome, Illustration

Restless legs syndrome RLS is a neurological condition causing a crawling or tingling sensation in the legs. Typically occurring when resting or falling asleep, the urge to move the legs is overwhelming, you will rub your legs or rub your feet together to get some relief. Almost 10% of the U.S. population is managing RLS. While symptoms can cause excessive daytime sleepiness affecting your cognitive ability, mood, relationships with loved ones, and productivity, restless leg syndrome can be treated with holistic remedies, medications, and non-invasive remedies.   

People with RLS feel a crawling, itching, pulling, or throbbing sensation in the legs

Where Can I Get More Information

For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:

Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892

health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the or the is appreciated.

Hot And Cold Treatments

While theres not a lot of research backing up using heat and cold to relieve RLS symptoms, many healthcare organizations recommend it. They include the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation .

These organizations suggest taking a hot or cold bath before going to bed, or applying hot or cold packs to your legs .

Some peoples RLS symptoms are aggravated by cold, while others have problems with heat. This could explain the benefits of these hot or cold treatments.

Restless Legs Syndrome: How Is It Dangerous And How To Overcome This Disorder

A good nights rest is essential for the normal functioning of the body. What happens if at night, while sleeping or falling asleep, a person experiences discomfort in the legs, which forces him to make involuntary movements to relieve these sensations and deprive him of the several hours of sleep that we so need? In this article, we will tell you what Restless Legs Syndrome is, its signs, causes, and treatment. Find out all about this sleep disorder.

Restless legs syndrome is also known as Ekbom syndrome or Willis-Ekbom syndrome

Table of Contents

  • What to AVOID:
  • 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:

    Restless Arm Restless Body And Other Related Conditions

    Its called restless leg syndrome, but it can also affect your arms, trunk, or head. Both sides of the body are usually involved, but some people have it on only one side. Despite these differences, its the same disorder.

    About 80 percent of people with RLS also have periodic limb movement of sleep . This causes involuntary leg twitching or jerking during sleep that can last all night long.

    Peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, and kidney failure cause symptoms like RLS. Treating the underlying condition often helps.

    Many people with Parkinsons disease also have RLS. But most people who have RLS dont go on to develop Parkinsons. The same medications can improve symptoms of both conditions.

    Its not uncommon for people with multiple sclerosis to have sleep disturbances, including restless legs, limbs, and body. Theyre also prone to muscles spasms and cramps. Medication used to combat fatigue associated with chronic diseases can also cause this. Medication adjustments and home remedies may help.

    Pregnant women are at higher risk of RLS. It usually resolves on its own after the baby is born.

    Anyone can have occasional leg cramps or strange sensations that come and go. When symptoms interfere with sleep, see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Be sure to mention any underlying health conditions.

    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.

    Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

    PLMD is a similarly related sleep disorder, sometimes called periodic limb movement during sleep . In people with PLMD, the limbs twitch or jerk uncontrollably while sleeping. It is also considered a type of sleeping disorder. The movement may cause the individual to wake up frequently during the night, and this can undermine the quality and length of sleep. It can lead to RLS.

    Lifestyle changes and common medications that may help alleviate RLS symptoms include:

    • Warm baths and massages: These can relax the muscles and reduce the intensity of symptoms.
    • Warm or cool packs: Some people prefer warm, some cold, and others say that alternating hot and cold is helpful.
    • Relaxation techniques: Stress can make RLS worse, so exercises such as , meditation, and tai chi may help.
    • Exercise using legs more can help alleviate symptoms. If the patient has a sedentary lifestyle, walking instead of driving, taking up a sport, or exercising the legs in a gym can help.

    Symptoms Of Restless Legs Syndrome

    Restless leg syndrome

    People with Ekbom syndrome describe the main symptoms of the disease as strange sensations, painful tingling, chills, cramping, burning, etc. They also complain of pain, nervousness, and control problems. Lets take a closer look at the symptoms of this disorder:

    • Uncontrolled need to move legs , accompanied by unpleasant sensations or not. This type of abnormal sensations is called paresthesia  or, if these sensations are unpleasant, dysesthesia 
    • Movement relief: Discomfort decreases or disappears.
    • Flare-ups in the late evening or night make it difficult to fall asleep and reduce the quality of sleep. This causes drowsiness during the day.
    • Worse at rest: while sitting, lying, in a car, train, at a movie, at a computer, etc.

    Restless Legs Syndrome Causes

    Doctors donât know what causes most cases of restless legs syndrome, but your genes might play a role. Nearly half of the people with RLS also have a family member with the condition.

    It might also be tied to:

    • Chronic diseases. Certain long-term medical conditions include RLS symptoms, including iron deficiency, Parkinsonâs disease, kidney failure or renal disease, , and peripheral neuropathy.
    • Medications. Some drugs might make symptoms worse, including anti-nausea meds, antipsychotics, some , and cold and  medications that have .
    • Pregnancy. Some women have RLS during , especially in the last trimester. Symptoms usually go away within a month after delivery.
    • Lifestyle. A lack of sleep or another sleep disorder like apnea can trigger symptoms or make them worse. So can alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine use.

    Treatment If The Condition Gets Worse

    Over time, treatment of RLS with a dopamine medicine may not work as well as it did at first. This is called augmentation.

    You might notice that your symptoms:

    • Begin earlier in the day.
    • Become more intense.
    • Spread to another part of your body.

    If you are taking a dopamine medicine for RLS and your symptoms change, tell your doctor. Do not stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first. You can work with your doctor to decide what treatment is the best one for you.

    If you continue to have symptoms even though you are receiving treatment with drugs and are exercising regularly, eating right, and not smoking, drinking alcohol, or using caffeine, your symptoms may need to be reevaluated. Many other conditions can cause the sensations found in restless legs syndrome, including several vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

    Your doctor may recommend different drugs or a combination of drugs. Follow up with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome

    The symptoms of RLS make it almost impossible to rest and sleep at night. With symptoms worse at night twitching or jerking is common when trying to fall asleep. People with RLS feel a crawling, itching, pulling, or throbbing sensation in the legs. Symptoms are most severe at night when trying to sleep. During an active day, symptoms are less noticeable. Insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness can be side effects of restless leg syndrome as getting restorative sleep at night is difficult. 

    • Crawling, itching, pulling, or throbbing sensation in the legs
    • Symptoms most noticeable at night when trying to sleep
    • Insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness from lack of restorative sleep  

    Restless Leg Syndrome Causes And Risk Factors

    There is no known cause of RLS. However, certain risk factors increase your risk. Growing age increases your risk of acquiring RLS. Women face twice more risk to acquire RLS than men. Theprevalence of the disease in women was found to be 14.2% which twice as compared to 6.6% in men.

    There is an increased chance of you falling into the abyss of RLS if you have the following underlying diseases:

    What Are Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome

    The primary symptom of restless legs syndrome is a sensation of discomfort in the legs that is often difficult to describe. The feeling is different from leg cramps or numbness from circulation problems. Patients have used the following words to describe this sensation:

    • Itchy
    • Creepy
    • Throbbing

    Usually this feeling is paired with the urge to move your legs. The desire usually worsens when you lie down or rest.

    The symptoms of restless legs syndrome are frequently worse in the evening and at night than in the morning.

    A related problem is that your leg muscles might tighten or flex while you are still. These movements can be out of your control. In extreme cases, they may be periodic limb movements.

    Take Methyl B12 And Methyl Folate

    Some studies suggest a vitamin B12 and folate deficiency may cause RLS. Both folate an essential B vitamin and B12 are required for proper brain function, and a deficiency in one usually means a deficiency in the other. Take 5 mg of methylcobalamim or hydroxocobalamim, and 800 mcg of methyl folate .

    Role Of Dopamine In Rls

    Marked improvement in RLS symptoms seen with drugs that stimulate the dopamine system and RLS-like symptoms produced with drug that block the dopamine system implicate the dopamine system in the pathogenesis of RLS.

    Although cerebrospinal fluid is a crude method for assessing the dopamine system in the brain, data from CSF indicated possible increase in brain dopamine production. Imaging studies using special radioactive chemicals have found reduced receptor and transporter function in the brain of more severely affected RLS patients.

    Tissues from the Brain Bank have shown that the dopamine cells are normal in appearance and number, with no indication of damage. However, these studies also found that the dopamine receptors were decreased and the proteins associated with producing dopamine were increased.

    The composite results suggest the presence of increased production and release of dopamine a malfunction of  the receptors that bind the dopamine and transmit the dopamine signal to other cells. The increase in dopamine may be the brain cells’ response to the poor signal.

    How Is It Treated

    Restless Leg Syndrome: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments ...

    If your symptoms are mild, a few lifestyle changes may be enough to control your symptoms. Some changes that may help:

    • Avoid tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine.
    • Keep your bedroom cool, quiet, and comfortable, and use it only for sleeping, not for watching TV.
    • Get regular exercise.
    • Massage the leg or the arm, or use heat or ice packs.

    When symptoms are more severe, medicines may help control the urge to move and help you sleep. There are different types of medicine, and you may have to try a few to find the one that works best.

    Symptoms Of Restless Leg Syndrome Vary Widely

    The symptoms of RLS can vary a lot between individuals and on a day-to-day basis. In moderate cases, people experience symptoms two or less times per week, and have a significant yet manageable disruption in their daytime functionality. Whereas in severe cases someone may be symptomatic daily, with a resulting extreme impairment in their ability to function.

    Most people report that the sensations get worse in the evening, especially when their body is still, particularly if youre sitting or lying down. While we often associate RLS with sleep, the disorder can likewise strike whenever someone is inactive for an extended period of time: such as when watching a movie, or traveling.

    The severity of the sensations can also vary widely, from simply being an irritating inconvenience to bringing on extreme pain. And while moving the affected limb relieves any discomfort, the sensations typically return once you rest again.

    Symptom Progression

    When the disorder first develops, some people may find that their symptoms go into remission, only to reappear a few weeks or months later. However, generally symptoms get progressively worse with time.

    Symptoms also progress differently depending on the cause. People who have RLS thats caused by an underlying medical condition tend to experience a sudden onset of symptoms that increase in severity rapidly.

    Whereas those who suffer from primary RLS have a much slower progression, gradually worsening over a number of years.

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