Restless legs

Restless legs

What are restless legs?

Restless legs is a condition with muscle tension in the legs that causes uncontrollable urges to move them. It is a condition with strange and unpleasant feelings in the legs as well as an irresistible urge to constantly move them, when relaxing. Often the condition is relieved by walking around, and even though the condition may not sound very disabling, it should still be taken seriously. ‘Restless Legs Syndrome’ (RLS) may lead to sleeplessness (Insomnia), which can limit your functioning and well-being.

 

What are the symptoms?

Patients with the syndrome describe the feelings in the legs as:

  • Painful

  • Burning

  • Creeping

  • Itching

  • Tingling

  • A feeling of electric shock

Some people also experience these symptoms in their arms.

The symptoms mostly occur when trying to settle in bed during the evening, but some experience them more with ordinary relaxation during the day. The symptoms are usually aggravated in the evening and night, while they are often briefly relieved during the morning. For this reason, patients may wake up during the night, having difficulty getting a good and long night’s sleep. The situation is often further aggravated as many patients with RLS also suffer from ‘Periodic Limb Movement Disorder’ (PLMD), which are periodic movements of extremes every 10 to 60 seconds which mostly occurs during sleep.

Irregular and insufficient sleep can influence the patient’s ability to learn, work, concentrate and perform regular everyday tasks and activities. A lack of sleep may eventually lead to mood swings, irritability, depression, a weakened immune system and other physical and health related issues.

 

What are the causes?

The condition is believed to be due to poor blood circulation, hereditary factors, other different conditions or side-effect of different psychotherapeutic drugs. This can, among other things, be due to iron deficiency, poor kidney function or pregnancy. The condition is more common in women than men, and the frequency significantly increases with age, which means that almost every other older than 60 years, to a greater or lesser extent, suffers from symptoms of RLS.

There are two types of RLS, whereof the primary is caused by unknown causes. The most frequent type occurs before the age of 45 years, has tendencies that point towards heritability, and the symptoms also continue for life with continuous deterioration over time.

The secondary type of RLS is due to another illness and often begins later in life than primary RLS. It does not appear to be hereditary, and the symptoms often occur more suddenly, usually without worsening over time. Conditions that can trigger RLS include: diabetes, iron deficiency, kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease among other. Where the primary RLS cannot be cured, secondary RLS often improves as soon as the triggering factor/disease has been treated.  

 

What are the treatments?

The illness cannot be cured, it may be possible to relieve the symptoms with painkillers, stretching exercises, leg massage as well as relaxation techniques such as yoga. It turns out that moderate exercise may help, while excessive training can aggravate the condition. Also, an absence of caffeine, smoking and alcohol may act as relieving. If the abovementioned treatments are not effective, there are different drugs that the physician can prescribe to the patient, such as ‘dopaminergic medicine’ which is also used to treat Parkinson’s disease. As mentioned, the secondary type of RLS is treatable by treating the triggering factors first.

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