What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as the Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological sleep disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move the legs. The condition interferes with your sleep, making it difficult to fall asleep.
Restless leg syndrome can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition such as diabetes, low levels of iron or pregnancy. It may also be associated with the use of certain medications such as antidepressants, allergy medications, anti-histamines, over the counter sleeping medicines and anti-nausea medications. In some cases, the cause is not known.
The primary symptom of restless leg syndrome is an uncomfortable sensation in the legs, especially when at rest. This compels you to move your legs, which temporarily relieves the sensation. You may experience itchiness, creepiness, throbbing or a burning sensation. Your leg muscles may flex or tighten, and in extreme cases, RLS may be associated with periodic limb movements. All these sensations are completely out of your control and worsen during the night while you try to sleep.
Diagnosis of RLS involves reviewing your medical history. You may be asked to maintain a sleep diary. A blood test may be ordered to measure your levels of iron. A sleep study may be recommended to rule out other sleep-related conditions.
Treatment involves lifestyle modification or medication, or a combination of the two. Behavior modifications involve regular exercises such as walking or cycling, limiting alcohol and caffeine, quitting smoking, and practicing stress-reducing activities such as yoga or meditation. Medications such as anti-seizure medications, narcotic pain medications and iron supplements may be prescribed. Massage or soaking in a hot bath can help relax your muscles and may also provide relief from RLS.