Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
Restless Legs Syndrome, another common sleep disorder, is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. The urge to move is usually due to unpleasant feelings in the legs that occur when one is relaxed or trying to rest. People with RLS describe the feelings they have as creeping, crawling, tingling, tugging, or burning sensations which make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Some patients describe the sensation as irritating and others describe it as painful. It is activated or brought on by an attempt to relax. Moving the legs provides relief. Symptoms occur mostly at night and not at all in the early morning. The disorder tends to get worse as time goes on, yet some experience periods of remission.
Also known as Wittmaack-Ekbom Syndrome, Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder affecting approximately 10+ percent of the American population. This sleep disorder can also affect other parts of the body, such as the arms and torso. Some sufferers experience a major disruption of sleep, affecting their health and quality of life.
Restless Legs Syndrome can begin at any age, but the risk and severity of RLS usually increases as one ages, affecting mostly middle-aged and older adults. It seems to affect women more often than men.
Types of Restless Legs Syndrome
Primary Restless Legs Syndrome – Primary RLS is the most common of the two and is hereditary. The cause is not known, though extensive research on the subject is being done worldwide.
Secondary Restless Legs Syndrome – Secondary RLS is caused by an underlying medical condition such anemia, iron deficiency, pregnancy, kidney failure, diabetes, or nerve damage. Environmental factors, stress, and the use of certain drugs can also cause secondary Restless Legs Syndrome.
If you have symptoms and your sleep is being disrupted, it is vital for your health and quality of life that you seek help from a sleep specialist, who can help you manage your symptoms and provide medical treatment if necessary.
Restless Legs Syndrome Facts
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is seldom caused by an underlying medical problem, but it can sometimes accompany other conditions such as:
- Kidney Failure
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- An Iron deficiency may cause or RLS or make it worse. Some researchers believe the way the brain uses iron may be the cause.
- RLS is common in pregnancy, especially during the third trimester. Symptoms usually disappear within a month after childbirth.
- Research has shown some evidence that low levels of iron in the brain may have a connection to Restless Legs Syndrome.
- Some medications may trigger Restless Legs Syndrome. It is imperative that you let your sleep physician know about any medications you have been taking.
- The use of alcohol or tobacco may worsen the symptoms of RLS.
- Nerve damage may cause RLS or make it worse.