Restless legs syndrome is a condition that is characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs, typically in the evening and night time. Restless legs syndrome usually happens when sitting or lying down. It generally worsens with age and can begin to interrupt sleep as it worsens. Getting up and moving around helps the feelings temporarily go away. There are other steps and medications that may help symptoms, but it is chronic and can last a lifetime.
RLS is one of several disorders that can cause daytime sleepiness and exhaustion which can greatly interfere with relationships, work, school and other daily functions. It is estimated that up to 7-10 percent of the U.S. population may have restless leg syndrome. It occurs more in woman, but can occur in men as well. It may begin at any age, but symptoms usually worsen and become more frequent with age. More than 80 percent of people with RLS also have PLMS which is periodic limb movement of sleep. These are jerking movements during sleep that happen every few seconds, sometimes throughout the whole night.
Restless legs syndrome is caused by unknown factors. RLS does have a genetic component that can be found in families. RLS can be found in those with essential tremor and other nervous system conditions. Sleep deprivation and other sleep conditions tend to trigger symptoms. Reducing these can greatly eliminate symptoms.
Restless legs syndrome can be treated, with care directed at relieving symptoms and providing temporary relief. Iron supplementation or medications are usually helpful, but there is not one medication that provides complete relief. Lifestyle changes can provide relief from RLS as well. Moderate exercise, warm baths, or heating packs can help to relieve symptoms.
Certain drugs such as sleep aids and anti-seizure drugs may treat the symptoms of RLS. Anti-Seizure drugs can help relieve sensory disturbances such as nerve pain and the creeping and crawling sensations that come with RLS. Sleep aids can provide sleep and help symptoms be less intense.
Those with essential tremor are not necessarily predisposed to RLS, but may be more likely to develop symptoms of restless legs syndrome. The treatments for restless legs syndrome and essential tremor are similar. It is also true that the treatmentsfor restless legs syndrome may be beneficial for essential tremor as well. RLS and essential tremor can both be managed by light exercise, anti-seizure and dopaminergic drugs, relaxation, and other soothing methods. RLS and essential tremor can also be triggered by the same sleep deprivation and anxiety driven causes.
Essential tremor and restless legs syndrome are both conditions that cannot be cured but can be treated with the proper tools. Neither of the conditions are life threatening,and with proper medical care can be treated well enough that symptoms are very much manageable. Consult your medical care provider if you believe you are being affected by restless legs syndrome, so you can help get relief from your aggravating symptoms. For more information, visit www.ninds.nih.gov.