Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) seriously affects the lives of millions of individuals yet this ailment is rarely discussed. Even worse, thousands of people have this syndrome and do not seek medical treatment or are misdiagnosed. Restless Legs Syndrome can affect men, women and even children although the symptoms appear to worsen as a person ages.
Restless Legs Syndrome is a condition of the legs that can have affects on an individual’s daily life. Usually causing symptoms during the night, the sensations or even pain interrupts sleep causing those with the disorder to not get a full night’s sleep. These sensations have been described differently from different patients, everything from a tingling sensation to walking on needles. Other symptoms are described as a crawling, burning or tingling sensation in different areas of the legs.
There are rarely two people who describe the feelings of RLS the same and many can experience symptoms during the day or while sitting, not just while sleeping. However, most state that they can get some type of temporary relief from moving around or from exercising the legs. Not everyone who has RLS has the symptoms confined to the feet legs. Some have experienced pains reaching to their shoulders, neck and arms.
Restless Legs Syndrome gives an unpleasant feeling to the extremities, seen mostly in the legs, causing the loss of sleep to those who suffer from the symptoms. The syndrome can cause uncontrolled jumping of the muscles which moves the legs even during sleep, waking a person from sleep. The urge to move the legs doesn’t stop until the person begins to walk or exercise, giving some relief to the sensations.
There are no known causes of Restless Legs Syndrome for most individuals although it has been linked with other diseases and disorders. Stress, pregnancy, iron deficiencies, kidney disease, diabetes and nerve damage have all been linked to RLS. Restless Legs Syndrome may also be hereditary with more than half of those diagnosed having a relative who also suffers from RLS. Researchers are connecting this condition with an imbalance of dopamine, a chemical found in the brain.
Misdiagnosis is common among children who suffer from symptoms of this disorder. Many times the symptoms are simply discarded off as “growing pains” or worse yet, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Some children are unable to stay seated for long periods of time or are unable to focus due to a lack of sleep.
However, it is important to have other underlying conditions tested for and treated before being diagnosed with Restless Legs Syndrome. There are no specific tests that a doctor can perform to check for RLS so it is important to discuss with your doctor about any and all symptoms you may be experiencing. There are medications that can be prescribed by your doctor to help treat the symptoms and some treatments that can be applied at home.
Massage, warm baths or cold packs can greatly reduce the discomfort. While moderate exercise may help relieve the sensations, over-exertion of the muscles may increase the symptoms. Have your iron levels checked by your doctor and take an iron supplement if needed. Avoid caffeine and reduce your stress levels by using relaxation techniques.
The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation was formed in 1989 to educate the public and the health care community about this syndrome. Their work includes funding research to help improve and find new treatments. Up to 10 percent of the population may suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome which is astonishing since it was once thought of as a rare condition. Individuals who suffer from RLS-type symptoms should speak to their health care provider about finding a treatment that may offer relief and give sufferers a good-night’s rest.