What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease is a sleep disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. This uncomfortable sensation occurs along with other sensations such as, pulling, creeping, tugging, throbbing, itching, aching, burning, or crawling.

RLS can manifest at any age. However, the onset of symptoms before 40 years of age indicates a hereditary condition. However, certain conditions can increase the risk of developing RLS, such as:

  • Uremia
  • Dialysis
  • Diabetes
  • Pregnancy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Kidney disease
  • Iron deficiency
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Spinal cord conditions
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Medications such as antidepressants, antihistamines, and anti-nausea medications can also contribute to the development of RLS.

Symptoms of RLS include:

  • Leg discomfort
  • Sleep disruption
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Urge to move your legs

Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can make symptoms worse.

While there is no specific test to diagnose RLS, symptoms can help your doctor provide a reliable diagnosis of your condition. A complete physical and neurological exam and blood tests may be conducted in addition to evaluating your medical history to rule out any other possible health concerns associated with RLS.

Symptoms of RLS can be managed by non-drug treatments including:

  • Consumption of magnesium supplements.
  • Regular exercise such as walking or riding a bike.
  • Applying a heating pad, cold compress, or rubbing your legs to relieve leg discomfort.
  • Reduction of stress through relaxing activities such as meditation, yoga, and soft music.
  • Getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep and avoiding reading, watching television, or using your phone while lying in bed.
  • Avoiding consumption of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeinated products such as coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolates, and certain medications.
  • Prescription medications such as dopamine agonists, anti-seizure medications, benzodiazepines, and clonazepam can also provide relief.

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