Photo: Getty Images
Restless leg syndrome can occur at any age but usually first appears in late teenage years and worsens over time. Women are more prone to RLS than men.
The symptoms of restless leg syndrome are quite varied and may affect both the legs and arms. Individuals often describe sensations of tingling, cramping, pulling, electric-like shocks, itching, tugging or extreme pain. The symptoms do vary in intensity and fluctuate on a daily basis. The symptoms usually occur when one has been lying or sitting for a prolonged time. The only way to obtain relief from the symptoms is by getting up and walking. The symptoms tend to be worse at night and may also be associated with involuntary jerking of the legs while sleeping.
The cause of RLS remains a mystery, however, the disorder does run in families. Pregnancy is one condition that worsens the signs and symptoms of RLS. Fortunately in most women, the symptoms disappear after delivery. In rare cases, RLS may be associated with iron deficiency anemia, renal failure and peripheral neuropathy.
RLS is not life-threatening but it can be very disabling. Some people with RLS are not able to sleep. The diagnosis is usually made by a neurologist.
The treatment of RLS involves making lifestyle changes and/or medications.
There are several anti parkinsonian medications that have been found to be useful in the treatment of RLS. Two commonly used drugs include Requip and Mirapex. Sometimes these medications are combined with sinemet. The side effects of these medications are minor and there is no risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. Sometimes narcotics like morphine or oxycodone are required to ease the painful sensations. Some patients may benefit from sleeping pills and muscle relaxants. Many doctors also prescribe neurontin and lyrica to help relieve the symptoms. Unfortunately, in most cases, the drugs initially work and then the symptoms return. In fact some of these drugs may even worsen RLS.
Lifestyle changes play a vital role in treatment of RLS. Patients are encouraged to use over-the-counter pain medications instead or prescription pills, try and relax in warm baths and obtain massages to relax the muscles.