Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that affects roughly 7.5 million adults in the United States, according to health advocate Marla Ahlgrimm. RLS affects a person in many ways but most bothersome is its interference with natural sleep patterns. According to the RLS Foundation, restless leg syndrome may be related to family history, iron deficiency, renal failure, and neuropathy. Marla Ahlgrimm reports that as yet no single cause has been identified.
Many people mistakenly assume they have restless leg syndrome after drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverages. However, as Marla Ahlgrimm explains, RLS is much worse than simply having a burst of energy that manifests with jerky movements. Symptoms may include:
- An intense urge to move the legs or other body parts. This may be accompanied by nearly indescribable, unpleasant sensations.
- Worsening symptoms during rest.
- Partial or complete relief during activity affecting the related body parts. Marla Ahlgrimm notes that relief subsides immediately upon resting.
- Urge to move worsens in the evening, especially at bedtime.
- Movements cannot be attributed to a specific behavioral or medical disorder.
- “Fidgeting” is so severe it impacts sleep which in turn may cause significant stress on relationships, education, work, and family.
Diagnosis of RLS is made by evaluating and ruling out other conditions that may mimic its symptoms.
Sleep improves symptoms of RLS, however restful sleep is difficult while symptoms are active. Marla Ahlgrimm explains there are four types of FDA-approved medications to treat RLS. These include dopaminergic agents, sedatives, alpha-2-delta ligands, and pain relievers. Vitamin supplements that contain potassium, iron, and magnesium, as well as exercise may help relieve symptoms. Vibration therapy has shown promise in a limited number of patients.