Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them for relief. Individuals affected with the disorder often describe the sensations as throbbing, polling, or creeping. The sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.
These five essential features must be present for a correct diagnosis of restless legs syndrome (RLS):
You have a strong urge to move your legs (sometimes arms and trunk), usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs.
Your symptoms begin or become worse when you are resting or inactive, such as when lying down or sitting.
Your symptoms get better when you move, such as when you walk or stretch, at least as long as the activity continues.
Your symptoms are worse in the evening or night than during the day, or only occur in the evening or nighttime hours.
Your symptoms are not solely accounted for by another condition such as leg cramps, positional discomfort, leg swelling or arthritis. RLS often causes difficulty in falling or staying asleep, one of the chief complaints of the disease. Many people who have RLS also have periodic limb movements (PLMs) - jerking of the arms or legs that is often associated with sleep disruption.
For those with mild to moderate symptoms, many physicians suggest certain lifestyle changes and activities to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Decreased use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may provide some relief. Physicians may suggest that certain individuals take supplements to correct deficiencies in iron, folate, and magnesium. Taking a hot bath, massaging the legs, or using a heating pad or ice pack can help relieve symptoms in some patients. Physicians also may suggest a variety of medications to treat RLS.
RLS is generally a life-long condition for which there is no cure. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age. Nevertheless, current therapies can control the disorder, minimizing symptoms and increasing periods of restful sleep. In addition, some individuals have remissions, periods in which symptoms decrease or disappear for days, weeks, or months, although symptoms usually eventually reappear.
To schedule an appointment call (910) 295-6868 or to learn more about Restless Legs Syndrome visit: http://www.rls.org
Content provided by: NINDS (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke).