Restless Leg Syndrome
In 1672, Sir Thomas Willis, a British physician, discovered a neurological disorder characterized by overwhelming sensations that compel the sufferers to move their legs. This condition is known as restless leg syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekborn Disease.
At times, RLS might not produce symptoms in the legs (primarily deep inside the calves) 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—both sides equally—is at its worst. And as severity increases, the time in which symptoms begins starts getting earlier and earlier in the day. 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 one in 10 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. Other statistics include the following centered on the severity of the disease:
- 1 million children have RLS
- 5 percent have a mild form of RLS
- 2-3 percent have moderate to severe RLS
- People with moderate RLS have symptoms 1-2 times per week
- People with the severe form of RLS have symptoms greater than twice a week
- As people age, symptoms are more frequent and longer in length
Causes and Diagnosis of RLS
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 50 % 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 used 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.