Restless leg syndrome (RSL) is classified as a neurological disorder. This means that it is a problem with the body’s nervous system. It is a fairly common condition, but many people who’ve experienced it will never have received a diagnosis. It is believed that about 10% of the population of the United States has dealt with restless leg syndrome at some point in their life. In most instances the symptoms will have been mild, but the condition can cause great disruption to people’s lives. About 5 million people in the US deal with severe RLS.
Those individuals who are withdrawing from opiate or benzodiazepine drugs have a risk of developing this RLS. In most instances, the problem will resolve itself after the individuals have passed through the withdrawal stage. Alcoholics can also develop restless leg syndrome as a result of their substance abuse and lack of good nutrition.
RLS involves unpleasant body sensations in the legs. Occasionally these symptoms can appear in the arms as well. These unpleasant sensations are reduced by moving the affected limb. This means that the individual needs to keep on moving the limb in order to escape the discomfort. The symptoms of this condition can be moderate to severe. It is most often associated with those in middle age and older, but there are about 1 million in the US who experience childhood RLS. Women are twice as likely to develop this condition as men.
There is debate as to the exact cause of restless leg syndrome. It is believed to be somehow connected to dopamine and iron levels in the body. One theory suggests that dysfunction of the brain’s basal ganglia circuits interferes with uptake of dopamine. There also seems to be a genetic component to RLS, as it seems to be passed down through families.
When people are dealing with restless leg syndrome they will experience symptoms such as:
* Unpleasant sensations in the thighs, calves, feet or arms. This can be a feel of itchiness, tingling, cramping, numbness, aching, burning or tugging. These feelings will tend to last for up to an hour.
* These unpleasant sensations often occur at night or when the individual is lying down.
* RSL can begin any time the individual tries to relax.
* People who are experiencing these sensations will have a constant urge to keep moving or touching their legs.
* Many people who suffer from restless leg syndrome also have a condition known as periodic limb movements disorder. This is classified as a sleep disorder and those who experience it will involuntarily move their limbs while asleep. These jerky movements can occur as frequently as every fifteen seconds.
If people are dealing with RLS, it can have an impact their life. These are some of the dangers associated with the condition:
* If people are unable to sleep well at night, it will impact their ability to function the next day. Insomnia can suck much of the enjoyment out of life. Those who go a long time without proper sleep may find their physical and mental well-being compromised. They can feel exhausted all the time and find it hard to concentrate.
* People who are dealing with this condition can become depressed because of it. They can feel tired all the time but dread going to bed at night because it means a resumption of the RLS.
* While restless leg syndrome itself is not a life threatening condition, it can be a sign that something serious is wrong. This is why anyone experiencing RLS should have it checked out by their physician.
* The condition can worsen as people get older.
Restless leg syndrome can occur as a result of a number of conditions including:
* Peripheral neuropathy, which can appear in people who have chronically abused alcohol and suffered from nutritional deficiencies as a result
* Parkinson’s disease
* Deficiency of iron in their blood.
* A side-effect of different medications, including some anticonvulsants and antipsychotics
* Chronic kidney disease
* A potential symptom during pregnancy
Unfortunately, there is no available cure for RSL. However, there are things that people can do that will lessen the symptoms so that they are no longer noticeable. These are some of the treatment options:
* Stress tends to exacerbate the symptoms of RLS so people need to find ways of better managing the stressors in their life.
* Treating the underlying cause may greatly improve the situation.
* Relaxation techniques can ease tension in muscles and alleviate symptoms.
* Warm baths seems to give people relief/
* If people are dealing with an iron deficiency then they will be able to take supplements to rectify the situation.
* Some individuals get relief from RLS by taking small doses of opiate medication. This solution would not be appropriate for people who are attempting to escape opiate abuse.
* A type of medication known as a dopamine agonist can be of benefit to some people. This drug works by activating dopamine receptors.
* Individuals can have a remission of the symptoms for unknown reasons. These periods of remission can last for days, weeks or even months.
If people are experiencing restless leg syndrome as a result of drug withdrawal, the condition will usually resolve. This is because the lack of dopamine will only be temporary as the body adjusts to the new environment. People can reduce the severity of RSL by exercising. This works because it increases the level of dopamine in the body. People may also benefit from taking nutritional supplements during the withdrawal stage.
If alcoholics have been consuming a poor diet, this can lead to a deficiency of vitamins that the body needs to function properly. This can lead to lasting neurological damage know as peripheral neuropathy. This involves damage to the nerves in the limbs so that the individual will experience strange sensations. The symptoms of peripheral neuropathy can be mild to severe in nature. If people have this neurological condition then they may also develop RLS. This may mean that people will have to deal with RLS long-term in recovery. In most instances, it should be possible to manage the symptoms of restless leg syndrome and peripheral neuropathy so that it has minimal impact on the individual’s life. The most important thing is for people to speak to their physician so a course of treatment can be prescribed.