Restless Legs Syndrome

People with restless legs syndrome (RLS) cannot control the movement of their legs, often experiencing an uncontrollable desire to move their legs during times of relative inactivity, such as during sleep or extended periods of sitting. RLS is accompanied by an uncomfortable feeling in a person’s legs, such as an itchy or “pins and needles” sensation, which makes a person feel like moving his or her legs. Unfortunately, this condition often strikes at night, depriving those afflicted with it of adequate sleep, which in turn impairs a person’s mood, sense of tiredness, and ability to stay awake during the daytime hours. Women are more likely to develop restless leg syndrome, and it is common in all ages, particularly those 55 or older, and affects close to 10% of all Americans currently. A precise cause of restless legs syndrome is still being identified, however genetics are believed to play a prominent role in the disorder, as are the presence of chronic conditions such as kidney and iron issues, the use of antidepressants and cold and allergy medications, pregnancy, and sleep deprivation.

While treatment options differ for each patient depending on the severity of his or her condition, treatments for low-to-moderate RLS typically begin with moderate lifestyle modifications, such as regularly exercising, maintaining a consistent bedtime, receiving frequent leg massages or hot baths, and reducing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol and tobacco consumption. Those with more severe RLS are often prescribed dopamine, benzodiazepines and other medications.