Jiggling your leg constantly throughout the day? Can’t sit still? While you were growing up, did your teachers and parents strongly encourage you to stop lest you develop St. Vitus Dance? All kidding aside, if you actually experienced an uncontrollable urge to move your legs when you put your head down on the pillow or had a creeping, crawling sensation up your legs, you might have a condition known as Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS).
First discovered in 1672 by British physician, Sir Thomas Willis, RLS or Willis-Ekbom Disease, is defined as a neurological disorder whereby the sufferer overwhelming feels compelled to move his or her legs at rest. At times, RLS might not produce symptoms in the legs but instead in the arms, face or torso. Individuals with RLS describe and compare some of the other sensations they experience as if insects were crawling on their legs, bubbles are coursing through their veins and sometimes needle pricks or burning.
Since symptoms are precipitated by rest, movement and pressure can lessen and relieve some of the problems. Hence, as RLS sufferers wind down from a busy day and go to sleep for the night, the uncontrollable urge to move their legs is at its worst. No surprise, with this muscular activity and discomfort, good nights of sleep can be few and far between. Oftentimes, people with RLS suffer from poor concentration and productivity, and are fatigued and irritable during daylight hours.
It is estimated that about 10 percent of American adults are afflicted with RLS and unfortunately are presumed to have other neurological, orthopaedic or muscular problems, and sometimes even insomnia. Both children and adults are afflicted with RLS and females more so than males.
So what exactly causes RLS? The current theory is that there is a tie to a disruption in how dopamine, the chemical that helps nerve cells communicate within the brain, is produced. Another disease attributed to dopamine production is Parkinson’s disease. In addition, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a gene for RLS was discovered to be present in about half of all sufferers. However, the presence of the gene does not mean you will be or are affected by RLS.
Unfortunately, RLS cannot be diagnosed with a specific test. Your physician might start by ruling out an iron deficiency, end-stage renal failure and pregnancy. At the same time, if RLS is suspected, you might be advised to keep a sleep diary, logging instances, description and severity of symptoms.
There are several Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs that are approved to treat RLA and give sufferers relief, such as Requip® and Mirapex®. Nevertheless, the severity of symptoms can lessen with meditation and yoga, leg massage, stretching, acupressure and cold and hot packs. Modifications in lifestyle, such as decreasing caffeine and alcohol consumption, and quitting smoking, can also reduce symptoms. Unfortunately, treatment options do not cure RLS. It is a life-long condition.
If you believe you might have RLS or have been diagnosed, it might be time to seek out professional help. Please contact one of our medical concierges today at 1-855-863-4537 to schedule a free consultation.