The restless leg syndrome (RLS)is a disorder of neurological origin whose primary manifestation is the urgent and uncontrollable need to move the legs when resting due to a series of very uncomfortable abnormal sensations. Patients who suffer from them usually describe them as if something slid or impacted through the inside of their legs, causing tingling, shaking, discomfort, and burning, among other symptoms. It is a condition that is more pronounced at night, so the rest of many patients are severely affected. To remedy this situation, it is necessary to treat the disease with the appropriate medications, if necessary, and take into account some recommendations that are key to reducing the symptomatic picture—the causes, symptoms, and treatment of restless legs syndrome.
Causes of restless legs syndrome
The causes of restless legs syndrome (RLS) are not entirely clear, but despite this, specialists have identified several factors as possible triggers in different cases. It has been observed that approximately 50% of patients who suffer from this condition do so due to genetic causes; that is, they have a direct family member affected. In addition, they have stated that these patients tend to manifest RLS symptoms at an earlier age and that they have a slower evolution of the disease.
In addition to genetic causes, other conditions may be linked to RLS, and these are the ones we detail below:
- Being anemic or having low iron levels: In general, the syndrome’s symptoms are significantly reduced once optimal iron levels are reached.
- Being in the last three months of pregnancy: in this case, RLS symptoms usually disappear after delivery.
- I had some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, kidney damage, or peripheral neuropathy.
- Consumption of some medications, such as those intended to prevent nausea, colds, allergies, seizures, and antipsychotics.
There are other cases in which the patient presents an idiopathic leg syndrome; there is no family history of this disease or any relationship with the suffering of another type of pathology, such as those mentioned above. Likewise, doctors have highlighted that substances such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can worsen the symptoms of this syndrome.
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome
Although each patient may present a different degree of intensity, the main symptom of restless legs syndrome is the suffering of a series of uncomfortable sensations in the lower extremities when in a state of rest, which is accompanied by an urgent and irresistible need to move them to try to relieve the discomfort temporarily. The most common sensations that those usually affected experience are:
- Burning and feeling of heat in the legs.
- Pain in the legs
In general, these symptoms most commonly affect the part of the leg between the knee and the ankle, although they can also occur in other areas such as the thighs. Most patients also assure that these uncomfortable sensations are much more accentuated in the late afternoon or at night while sitting or lying down, which interferes with a good rest and makes it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Other situations in which RLS can intensify are on long car trips, prolonged sitting, long flights, relaxation exercises, etc.
Restless leg syndrome treatment
Before the suffering of the previous symptoms or the suspicion of suffering from RLS, it is advisable to consult with the doctor, as he will be able to diagnose the disease through the study of the symptoms, the clinical history of the patient, and the performance of some tests, in the case if necessary, such as an analysis or a deep sleep study.
Those patients who suffer the symptoms of RLS more continuously are those who will need pharmacological treatment to help them alleviate them. First, it is essential to treat the medical condition that may trigger or aggravate symptoms, such as diabetes or peripheral neuropathy. On the other hand, dopaminergic drugs, opioids, benzodiazepines, or anticonvulsants can be prescribed, depending on each patient. In the beginning, doctors usually prescribe these drugs in low doses to avoid possible side effects, although they can be increased according to the specific needs of each case.
In addition to the above, there is currently a new drug that allows RLS to be treated throughout the day. It is a kind of patch that adheres to the skin and releases dopaminergic agents, which reduce and alleviate the symptoms that occur both during the day and at night.
Recommendations for patients with RLS
A large majority of patients with RLS present mild to moderate symptoms. In these cases, they can be alleviated and reduced by carrying out some changes in lifestyle and taking into account some recommendations. However, they are also suitable measures for those who receive drug treatment. Next, we specify which are the most important:
- Take iron, folate, or magnesium supplements, if your doctor recommends it.
- Reduce or avoid the consumption of substances such as caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco that can greatly aggravate symptoms.
- Establish a regular sleep pattern, always going to bed and getting up simultaneously. It is also advisable to relax before sleeping, take a hot bath, and keep the bedroom in a quiet, calm and comfortable environment.
- Perform some exercise constantly and moderately, although intense exercise should be avoided in the last hours of the day.
- Do stretching exercises, through disciplines, for example, such as yoga or Pilates.
- Keep your mind busy.
- Leg massages and hot compresses are suitable natural treatments to soothe symptoms and feel relief. You can discover more options like these by consulting the article Home remedies for restless legs syndrome.
This article is merely informative, at FastlyHeal .com we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any type of diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor in the case of presenting any type of condition or discomfort.
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I am a Surgeon with a diploma in comprehensive ultrasound and surgical care residency, an area I am specializing in. During the exercise of my profession, I have realized the need for patients to know the diseases they suffer, and I can tell you that a large part of their complications is due to a lack of information. Being a health web writer allows me to transmit my experience, without borders, to all those readers eager for knowledge, educate them in the prevention of diseases and promote a healthy lifestyle.