Millions of Americans suffer from restless legs syndrome. If you struggle with RLS or suspect you have the condition, you might’ve asked yourself: ‘am I stuck with it?’
Your outlook can depend on a few things, such as the type of RLS you have. In this blog post, we’ll take a deeper look at RLS and we’ll explore what factors can lead to the RLS going away for good.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a nervous system condition that creates a strong and often overpowering urge to move your legs. Just as the name suggests, you have restless legs!
The Four Features of Restless Legs
- Unpleasant sensations and the urge to move
RLS causes unpleasant sensations in either one or both of your legs. Patients describe creeping, crawling, tingling, or even pulling sensations – usually in the calves. While the calves are the most commonly affected areas, you can experience these sensations in your thighs, ankles, and anywhere in between the two.
RLS is also associated with involuntary jerking movements of the legs (and sometimes, the arms). This condition is known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) and is experienced by more than 80 percent of people with RLS.
- Symptoms are worse at night
Symptoms can show up at bedtime, or they may pop up sooner in the evenings.
RLS can make nodding off to sleep a real challenge, often leading to complaints about insomnia. While some people experience daytime symptoms too, they’ll always be worse at nighttime, making night symptoms a defining feature of RLS.
Because of poor sleep quality, RLS can lead to severe daytime fatigue and sleepiness.
- Rest can bring on symptoms
RLS can make relaxation impossible. If you’re trying to sleep, or you’ve just sat down to watch a movie, or you’re on board a long flight, those bothersome sensations can strike and spoil downtime.
- Symptoms improve with movement
Being in a restful state can bring on symptoms. But being in an active state can send them away again. Walking, for example, is a great way to relieve symptoms.
Here’s the paradox: when you’re not moving, your legs will be. Involuntary movements can occur during sleep, in both rhythmic or semi-rhythmic patterns.
Differences in Symptoms
Of course, symptoms do differ from person to person. Some people have symptoms every day, while others get them occasionally. Symptoms can range from mild to severe, with those on the more severe side of the spectrum tend to face a lower quality of life.
RLS can even trigger other conditions, such as anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, the condition has the potential to make daily life difficult.
Is RLS Common?
1 in 10 people in the US is thought to struggle with RLS and the condition affects more women than men.
The symptoms are more common in middle-aged people, but they can affect children too – especially if the cause of the condition is genetic.
What Causes RLS?
In most cases, there’s no obvious cause of RLS, though genetics is believed to play a part. This type of RLS is called primary RLS.
In some cases, RLS can be caused by an underlying health condition, such as diabetes, an iron deficiency or kidney failure. It may even be caused by various medications. This type of RLS is secondary RLS.
Pregnancy could also be behind RLS. For reasons we don’t yet know, 1 in 5 pregnant women will face symptoms in their last trimester. Thankfully, these symptoms usually disappear after birth.
Some neurologists believe RLS links with how the body deals with dopamine – a neurotransmitter that controls muscle movement. A drop in dopamine levels in the body could be a driving factor behind RLS, though a consensus is yet to be reached.
Are You Gonna Have RLS For Your Whole Life?
If you have an underlying cause behind your RLS, your symptoms will likely disappear once that cause is dealt with.
However, if the cause isn’t known, the symptoms can get worse with time.
While this can be disheartening to hear, restless legs syndrome isn’t life-threatening, and treatments are available to help. For those with mild RLS, a few lifestyle changes may be all they need to effectively treat their symptoms.
There are several treatments you can try to help with RLS. Working with your healthcare provider, you can find the best combination for you.
How is RLS Diagnosed?
So, there’s no definitive test for RLS. Dr. Lawrence will take your history, ask you about your symptoms, and will perform a physical exam. Based on the information you give them and their observations, they might diagnose you with RLS.
What are the Treatments Options For RLS?
Treatment options include:
- Practicing good sleep habits (following a regular sleep schedule and bedtime routine)
- Giving up caffeine, alcohol, or smoking
- Maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regularly
- Treating underlying chronic conditions, such as vein disease
- Taking dopaminergic medication to increase dopamine levels
- Iron therapy
- Taking other medications such as benzodiazepine, opioids, and anticonvulsants
Could Vein Disease Be Behind Your RLS?
Did you know vein disease could be the underlying condition behind your RLS? Venous insufficiency has long been linked to RLS. When your blood valves don’t function as they should, blood pools up in the legs, and this can cause symptoms of RLS.
The good news is… if you treat your varicose veins, your RLS can dramatically improve. Many doctors offer in-office procedures to eliminate varicose or spider veins altogether!
Speak To an Experienced Vascular Surgeon To Treat Vein disease & Associated RLS
In most cases, vein problems are treatable. So, if you’re experiencing RLS because of vein issues, speak to a vein specialist and discover your vein treatment options. You could potentially eliminate both conditions together. Your vascular surgeon can then advise you on how to prevent them from coming back in the future.
Your Vein Specialist in Youngstown, Ohio
Ready to talk about venous insufficiency with an experienced venous specialist? Get evaluated by respected vascular surgeon Dr. Lawrence Schmetterer. With his expertise and knowledge, you can get on the path toward better vein health in no time.
Contact us and get booked in with a doctor ready to listen and deliver world-class care.