Restless Leg Syndrome: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

RLS or Restless leg syndrome is a neural sleep disorder and its main symptoms are unpleasant sensations felt in the legs, especially during night when an individual relaxes or sleeps, such as creeping, itching, pulling, gnawing, tingling or aching with an overwhelming urge to move one’s legs; and which gives temporary relief. It is also classified as a ‘movement disorder’.

restless leg syndrome

Causes of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is sort of a hereditary condition and may start early. Once an individual has RLS, it may continue for his entire life and over time its symptoms may worsen. Occurring in children, men and women, RLS’s prevalence is seen to be higher in women.

Affecting about five to fifteen percent of Americans, what causes Restless Leg Syndrome is still medically unknown. Although any race or ethnicity may be affected with RLS, it is more commonly seen in individuals of Northern European families.

  • Since RLS runs in families, it might be classified as a genetic medical condition.
  • Iron deficiency in the brain may also be one of the primary causes of RLS. A chemical called dopamine is made by our brains using iron and this chemical helps the brain in controlling movement. The lack or deficiency of it causes RLS.
  • Other causes of RLS may include:
    • Peripheral Neuropathy
    • Smoking
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Diabetes
    • Obesity
    • Rheumatoid arthritis
    • Anemia
    • Kidney failure
    • Pregnancy
    • Certain Medications
    • Age Related

All or some of the above mentioned chronic medical conditions may cause nerve damage leading to Restless Leg Syndrome.

RLS caused by pregnancy usually happens in a pregnant woman’s last trimester and which disappears some time after delivery, but may have chances of getting it again later on in life. Alcohol may aggravate RLS symptoms too.

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome does not let one fall asleep and even if one does fall asleep, it severely disturbs the sleep pattern. This disruption in sleep causes other problems such as lack of concentration, fatigue, mood swings, daytime sleeping, depression and other health issues.

PLMS or periodic limb movement of sleep is a commonly known condition, affecting more than eighty percent people suffering with RLS.

Its symptoms include legs twitching and jerking involuntarily every few seconds and lasting the entire night, causing extreme disruption in sleep. Individuals with RLS may have PLMS but is not vice versa with people having PLMS.

Diagnosis of Restless Leg Syndrome

Although there are no precise tests which can diagnose RLS, there certainly are basic criteria based on which a diagnosis can be made. These criteria are:

  • Minor or no symptoms during daytime and worsened symptoms during night.
  • Absolute need to move one’s lower limbs.
  • Rest, sleep or relaxation often triggers an individual’s sensory symptoms.
  • As long as you are moving your limbs there is relief, otherwise not.

It is advisable for a person who experiences these symptoms that he shares all that he feels with his health care provider. Every tiny bit of information will help in better and accurate diagnosis.

It is also advisable that an individual be well informed about his own familial lineage as far as medical conditions are concerned, so that it gets easier for the doctor to diagnose RLS.

Lab tests to know iron and mineral deficiency if any and sleep tests to know sleep patterns and limb movements are also helpful in diagnosing of Restless leg syndrome or any other sleep disorder that may be.

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