Restless legs (RLS) can be a perplexing experience, often leaving individuals with an uncontrollable urge to move their legs in response to uncomfortable sensations. While these symptoms can be bothersome, it's important to know that restless legs themselves do not pose any serious health risks.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS or Willis–Ekbom disease) is a condition characterized by an irresistible restlessness in the legs, driven by an annoying tingling sensation that compels movement for relief. It's crucial to understand that, although the symptoms can be disruptive, the condition is generally benign.
Restless legs often follow a recurring pattern, with periods of improvement and increased discomfort. For pregnant women experiencing restless legs, the symptoms may resolve after giving birth.
- Tingling, itching, or unpleasant feelings in the lower legs, especially in the evening and at night.
- Uncontrollable restlessness in your legs, compelling you to move to alleviate the discomfort.
- Difficulty lying still, with occasional jerking movements in your legs during sleep.
- Poor sleep quality, leading to daytime tiredness or sleepiness.
- Increased severity of symptoms just before falling asleep, and even during prolonged periods of sitting, such as in a bus, cinema, or plane.
The exact cause often remains unclear, but restless legs are more common in older people and women, often running in families.
Potential associations include pregnancy, certain medications (for depression or psychosis), and impaired kidney function. Factors such as smoking, alcohol, coffee, overweight, and a sedentary lifestyle may worsen symptoms.
Pregnancy and Restless Legs:
For pregnant women, symptoms may resolve after birth.
- Common in older people / women
- Can be familial
- Certain medications (for example anti-depressants or anti-psychotics)
- Impaired kidney function
- Smoking and drinking coffee
- Overweight and a sedentary lifestyle
While restless legs may not have a foolproof cure, certain lifestyle changes and home remedies can help alleviate symptoms or prevent them from worsening:
- Quit smoking, consider stopping smoking to reduce restless leg symptoms.
- Limit evening coffee, avoid drinking coffee in the evening, as caffeine intake can exacerbate symptoms.
- Moderate acohol consumption, limit alcohol intake to one glass per day, and preferably not every day.
- Regular exercise, engage in regular daytime exercise to promote overall leg health.
- Avoid intense exercise before bed, refrain from intensive exercise just before bedtime to minimize symptoms during sleep.
Treatment Options for Restless Legs
While medications are generally not the first line of treatment, in severe cases, your healthcare provider might consider them after weighing the pros and cons with you.
Medications like ropinirole or pramipexole may help alleviate symptoms, with approximately 6 out of 10 people experiencing relief. However, they may have side effects such as nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.
It's important to note that medications may not always be effective and can have side effects. Sometimes, restless legs may worsen with prolonged use, spreading to other body parts or intensifying.