What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?

female legs in bed
Restless legs syndrome RLS, is arecognized neurological disorder in which legs feel very uncomfortable while sitting or lying down, especially at night.

You lie down in bed, prepared to go to sleep, and just as your body begins to relax, an uncomfortable leg sensation begins to overwhelm your legs.

You try to overlook the creeping, tingling, or itching in your legs, wishing it will go away, but it only gets worse. You toss and turn for a while, but eventually the urge to move is too much. You get out of bed to stretch and pace the floor and, for an instant, you discover reprieve. However when you lie down again, the restless feelings in your legs begin again.

Sometimes a hot shower will help or the endorphin's released during sexual activity. Strength training tour legs and flexibility exercises may help. You can try wearing compression socks or stockings or wrap your legs in bandages to lessen symptoms. Try sleeping with a pillow between your legs. The uncomfortable feelings momentarily get better when you move, stretch, or massage your legs. The relief continues as long as you keep moving.

Restless leg syndrome may affect both, men and women at all ages. Restless legs syndrome can disturb sleep leading to daytime tiredness and increase stress both detrimental to overall health. Stress in turn increases the symptoms of restless leg syndrome creating a vicious cycle.

Restless legs syndrome's cause is usually unknown. Therefore, there is no risk of RLS progressing to more serious conditions, such as Parkinson's disease. However if the restless leg syndrome is due to medical conditions such as iron deficiency, diabetes, or kidney disease and left untreated serious health complications may occur. So, seeing your doctor about your condition is strongly advised.

Some research has been done and the researchers suspect it might be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain's reward and pleasure centers. Dopamine also helps regulate movement and emotional responses.

Restless leg syndrome can be genetic and run in families. Approximately half of those with restless legs syndrome have family members also affected. Although anyone can have restless legs syndrome, it is more common in older adults and women. Approximately 40% of women have restless leg syndrome during pregnancy.

Caffeine, smoking and alcohol aggravate and increase the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

Weight loss may help to alleviate symptoms of restless leg syndrome if you are overweight.

Here are some signs and symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome:

  • Leg discomfort and strong urge to move caused by uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs, accompanied by a strong, often irresistible urge to move them. Many describe the sensations as tingling, jitteriness, a “creepy crawly” feeling, itching, or pulling. 
  • Leg pain is usually trigged by activity and relieved by rest, but with restless legs syndrome, the opposite is true. Restless leg symptoms start or become worse when you are sitting, relaxing, or trying to sleep. 
  • Restless leg syndrome normally flares up at night, particularly when you are lying down. In more severe cases, the symptoms may begin earlier in the day, but intensify at sleep time. 
  • Many people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), a sleep disorder that involves repetitive constricting or jerking of the legs during sleep. 

When the restless leg symptoms become severe, you should talk to your doctor about medicines may help control the urge to move and help you sleep. You may have experiment with the different types of treatments to find what works for you.

A new study by Harvard Medical School looked at the link between belly fat and restless leg syndrome. Their findings concluded that:

Study participants with the biggest bellies were slightly more than one and a half times more likely to have restless legs syndrome than those with the smallest.

Restless legs syndrome tied to early death

Take care and be well.
Tommy Douglas


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