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What Triggers Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) & How You Can Cure It?

About 10% of Americans suffer from the Restless Leg syndrome (RLS) which is an irresistible urge to keep moving your legs or any other limb. It is also known as the Willis-Ekbom disease. It is fairly common and anyone can get it but is most common in middle-aged females. Though a minor syndrome but it has the potential to become problematic if left unchecked. This syndrome is curable by treatment which involves pharmaceuticals and lifestyle changes.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

A restlessness in legs, arms, chest, head that feels like an itching, crawling, pulling sensation, it may also feel like the sting of needles or pins that goes away after continuous shaking or moving of legs or the concerned part of the body. The urge feels considerably powerful and can soon become an obsessive compulsion. It may start from one side of the body and move to the other but usually it happens on both sides like both legs or arms. Since it is most common in legs, it is called the Restless Leg Syndrome.

The symptoms of RLS can range from mild to severe or unbearable. They may occur in episodes of varying intensities and duration. Mostly they occur in the evening and night time (while sleeping), this can severely disrupt one’s life and cause health damage.

What are the probable causes of RLS?

RLS is seen to also occur genetically, but that is not proven yet. However, people with family history of RLS are more at risk. There could be several other reasons that trigger RLS in people, some of them are mentioned below:

Chronic Diseases are sometimes tied to acute chronic diseases like Parkinson’s, diabetes, renal diseases or neurological problems like peripheral neuropathy. Long term iron deficiency is also linked to triggering of RLS.
Some pharmaceuticals like antidepressants, allergy & nausea meds and antipsychotics which contain antihistamines may make the symptoms worse and can accelerate the disorder’s pace.
Pregnant women are more at risk of having RLS in their third trimester, but this is usually cured within a month after delivery.
Particular lifestyles and sleep related problems like apnea can trigger RLS. Excessive use of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine may also cause the Restless Leg Syndrome.

Diagnosis of symptoms:

There is no medical test as such for identifying the symptoms of RLS. A doctor usually notices major symptoms and asks about sleeping patterns and other related triggers. The following criteria is used for primary diagnosis:

An irresistible urge to move your leg especially that side where sensation is being felt.
The urge starts when at rest or gets more powerful.
The urge subsides or completely ends after moving the concerned limb.
Ruling out the possibility of cramps, arthritic pain or muscle pangs.

Doctors use several lab tests to rule out other possibilities that might be causing RLS like neurological exams to check damaged blood vessels and nerve damage. A polysomnography test which monitors a person’s vitals (heart rate, blood pressure, breathing) during sleep might also be conducted to get some data about sleep pattern. This helps to establish if the person has any serious sleep disorders .

RLS Treatment:

There are no particular treatments or medications available for RLS. However, certain prescription drugs can help you sleep properly and thus control it a little bit. Iron deficiency may also cause RLS. Mild to medium symptoms can be fixed with small changes to your lifestyle like a regular sleeping schedule, avoiding things like coffee, tobacco, alcohol and getting regular exercise. Other ways to treat RLS include:
Leg massages
Heating pads or ice packs on legs
Soaking legs in hot water
Regular exercise and stretching
Avoiding daytime naps
Aevum RiboGold RLS cream

Some pharmaceuticals that work are narcotic pain relievers, anticonvulsants, anti seizure drugs, benzodiazepines, dopaminergic drugs and sedatives that secrete dopamine in the system. If Restless Leg Syndrome is left unchecked for a long time, it gets worse. The symptoms and effects become more severe with growing age. A remission phase may last for as long as years or be as short as days. The best way to control RLS is to see a doctor regularly and keep him/her well informed and updated about the lifestyle changes.