Restless legs syndrome, also known as RLS, is a sleep-related disorder that causes an overwhelming, and oftentimes exhausting, urge to move your legs while at rest, according to the National Sleep Foundation. The NSF says that about one in 10 Americans suffer from RLS, which can interfere with sleep and cause discomfort.
While there is no cure for RLS, there are ways you can treat the symptoms. Since restless leg syndrome can be caused by certain medications, you might be able to switch medications, or your doctor might prescribe lifestyle changes, such as more exercise. It's important to understand the symptoms of RLS so you can talk to your doctor about a possible diagnosis and get the right treatment.
WebMD explains that doctors don't really know the cause of RSL, but they think genetics is a part of it. Other factors that are associated with restless leg syndrome include:
- Chronic illnesses. Iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy often have symptoms of RLS.
- Medications. Certain medicines — including antinausea drugs, antipsychotic drugs, some antidepressants, and cold and allergy medications containing sedating antihistamines — can also contribute RSL symptoms. * Never stop taking a medication before speaking with your health care provider.
- Pregnancy. Many times pregnant women experience RLS, often in the third trimester. The restless legs syndrome usually goes away soon after giving birth.
RLS can range from mild to totally intolerable, which negatively affects your quality of life. WebMD says that the symptoms also tend to worsen at night, disrupting sleep. The National Sleep Foundation says to identify restless legs syndrome, you should look out for these signs:
- A strong desire to move legs when you lie or sit down
- An urge to move your legs that feels impossible to resist, mostly when you're sitting still
- A creepy-crawly, itching, pulling, feeling in your legs
- Symptom relief by moving your legs
- Waking yourself, or your partner, with your leg movements during sleep
- Involuntary leg movements while awake
- Tired and unable to concentrate during the day
- Symptoms worse at night
The National Sleep Foundation says that while RLS can't be cured, it's treatable. To manage symptoms, you should speak to a health care professional about your symptoms and any current medical conditions so the physician can help you manage your RLS. Some common treatments include:
- Making lifestyle changes, such as exercising and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- Checking for an iron deficiency
- Checking with your doctor to see if any of your medications could be causing your RLS
- Taking hot baths and getting leg massages
- Taking a prescription medication to help with severe pain and sleep