If you have never heard of or experienced the symptoms of restless leg syndrome, then consider yourself lucky. Many people suffer on a daily basis from this condition as it impairs one’s ability to get a good nights rest or be comfortable at any point where symptoms may kick in. To better understand why you may be experiencing this condition, you should familiarize yourself with the various causes, symptoms and treatments so that you no longer have to suffer.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?
RLS, also known as “shaking leg syndrome”, is a condition that is diagnosed mainly through its symptoms, as it is difficult to pinpoint one particular cause. It is often categorized as general leg pain that occurs during periods of rest, usually in the evening or at night. As you may have guessed from the title, people suffering from RLS often do so while their legs are at rest, so the pain tends to dissipate as the begin to move their joints around. RLS tends to progress over time, so symptoms may get worse as someone ages, however it can and does occur in children.
While some people with RLS simply categorize their symptoms as general pain in the leg area, others may tend to experience cramping, aching, tingling, burning and even itchiness.
For most people, the cause of RLS is unknown. There is, however, a range of other conditions that have been linked to RLS, allowing you to target whether your symptoms are related to RLS or not. Some of these potential causes/related health conditions are:
Some of the other factors that can contribute to whether or not you experience RLS have to do with behaviors such as smoking or consuming caffeine, alcohol or certain medications. Aside from these related conditions and behaviors, there is also a slight genetic relationship and it is also known that people’s symptoms tend to worsen with age.
Because RLS is difficult to pinpoint down to one cause, there is a set of four criteria that help diagnose the condition. As always, with any self-diagnosis, there should be a follow-up consultation with your regular physician. If you have a feeling that you may be experiencing RLS, here are the four criteria to double check:
1) The urge to move your legs and lower limbs
2) Your symptoms begin or worsen when you are inactive
3) You find relief from your pain when you begin to move your lower limbs (e.g., walking)
4) Your symptoms begin or worsen at night or in the evening
Remember, all of these must be present to be diagnosed as RLS. If you have one or maybe a couple of these symptoms, then you may be suffering from a related or similar health condition. Some of these include:
It is also important to note that when children do experience RLS, it is often misdiagnosed as “growing pains.”
RLS can be both the result of certain conditions and can also lead to others due to its impairing abilities. For example, because RLS tends to occur at night and interrupt one’s sleep pattern, people who experience it also tend to suffer from insomnia, making them irritable and moody the next day.
Because there are a number of associated health conditions, treatment of RLS often comes in the form of addressing those primary conditions first. Testing can be done to diagnose other issues that may be the cause, such as blood testing for iron deficiency. Similarly, if varicose veins are believed to be the cause, surgical treatment may be recommended to handle the primary issue in hopes of relieving the RLS symptoms as well. Other “treatments” tend to deal with the prevention side, especially if your RLS is the result of particular behaviors like smoking and caffeine consumption. Cutting back on these behaviors, if not completely stopping, may eliminate your RLS if these are indeed the causes. There are also a host of natural supplements that may be used depending on what you believe the cause to be.
People suffering from RLS often do so quietly. They may think that they are unable to explain their symptoms properly or may simply chalk it up to cramping or older age. If you do experience it and it is interfering with your ability to sleep and your daily life in general, then you should definitely seek the advice of your physician. Even through using the self-diagnosis criteria previously stated, you will be able to better target your conversation with your doctor. RLS is a very real condition and the more research that it being done, the more attention the disorder gets. Therefore, if you do believe you have RLS, talk with your physician and follow some of this advice so that you no longer have to suffer in silence.