How Does RLS Develop?
If unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in your legs are accompanied by irresistible urges to move them, you may have a medical condition called restless legs syndrome (RLS).
What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?
The sensations and urges to move your legs are related to your nervous system. You may experience these symptoms more so in the late afternoon or at night. Most people find symptoms are at their worst at night while they’re trying to rest, sit, or sleep. If you’re inactive and seated for long periods of time, the symptoms can become more noticeable as well.
Since you can experience more severe symptoms at night, falling or staying asleep may become more difficult. Moving your legs around or walking can help relieve the discomfort but the sensations return once you stop moving.
RLS is a sleep disorder because the sensations begin when you are trying to rest and sleep, and as a movement disorder since you’re compelled to move your legs to relieve symptoms. At its core, RLS is a neurological sensory disorder because the symptoms are produced from within the brain. RLS can start at any age, but usually gets worse as you get older.
Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
It’s common for no known cause to be discovered for people suffering from RLS, but there are some causes that research seems to suggest.
RLS runs in families where symptoms begin before age 40. Researchers have identified certain gene chromosomes where RLS may exist.
Pregnancy Hormonal Changes
Particularly in the later stages of pregnancy, RLS can appear, but symptoms typically vanish within a month of delivery.
The use of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine could be related to RLS.
Lack of sleep and other sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea, can aggravate or trigger symptoms for some individuals. Reducing or eliminating these conditions can help relieve symptoms.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Iron deficiency may be linked to RLS.
Complications of Restless Legs Syndrome
Although RLS won’t cause other serious conditions, symptoms can become quite debilitating when it leads to serious sleep deprivation. Severe RLS can seriously impact your quality of life, and RLS can cause depression. Sleeplessness can cause you to be drowsy during the day, and severely impact your ability to perform day-to-day tasks, which can take a toll on your professional and personal life.
How Is RLS treated?
A qualified, trusted sleep doctor who has the training and experience for treating sleep disorders is a good choice for RLS treatment. There are several treatments for restless leg syndrome that your sleep doctor may recommend, which include:
- Sleep habits: Your doctor will help you establish good sleep habits and routines that encourage consistent, quality sleep
Underlying medical conditions treatment: Your doctor will conduct tests to uncover any underlying conditions, such as iron deficiency, that can contribute to RLS and will treat those conditions
- Medical management: FDA-approved medications for treatment of RLS may be prescribed
- Sleep devices: Quell (a wearable pain relief device) can help alleviate RLS. Quell is a device that’s 100% drug-free, can be worn 24/7, and it can help relieve uncomfortable sensations and ease symptoms
If you suspect you’re suffering from RLS, see a doctor who specializes in sleep medicine who can properly diagnose and treat your condition. Dr. Samit Malhotra is a trusted sleep specialist located in Greenwich, CT. Dr. Malhotra diagnoses and treats a variety of of sleep disorders, including RLS. Call (203) 422-7940 today, or schedule an appointment using this form.