Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome is a condition marked by a compulsory need to move one’s legs. Though the condition itself is not necessarily serious in itself, it can lead to significant interference in a patient’s life.
At our sleep clinics in NYC, we are dedicated to helping patients overcome any sleep-related concerns. With our expertise and experience, we work towards equipping our patients with the knowledge and tools they need to achieve better sleep. Continue reading to learn more about restless legs syndrome and how you can address it.
Most people associate restless leg syndrome with sleep. However, it can affect you while you are awake as well. Still, it most often occurs later in the day toward nighttime.
Individuals who live with RLS often experience an uncomfortable sensation in their legs while sitting or lying down. Moving their legs can temporarily ease this sensation, but demands constant movement. This uncontrollable urge can interfere with relaxing and sleep when left untreated.
Patients can develop this condition at any age. Unfortunately, when left untreated, it can progress and become worse as years go on.
Many individuals experience various sensations in their legs throughout their life. However, for them, these are passing and barely register. For a patient with RLS, it is a recurring and constant struggle. In addition to an urge to move your legs, you might also experience:
What makes RLS so disruptive is that it strikes when you are trying to rest. You may start to feel sensations in your legs when sitting or lying down for extended periods. These sensations have been described as ranging from throbbing to itching to pulling.
It could be wiggling, stretching, or shaking your legs. The movement temporarily alleviates the sensations you feel while resting.
RLS can occur during the day as well. However, the symptoms seem exacerbated at night.
This is often seen as the hallmark of RLS. However, it could also be tied to another condition called periodic limb movement of sleep. Your legs may kick out or make drastic motions while asleep.
Unfortunately, there is no conclusive cause of restless legs syndrome. The closest that researchers have comes so far is to propose that an imbalance of dopamine causes it. This brain chemical is a key component in muscle control and movement.
However, researchers have noticed some common patterns among those who suffer from RLS.
Based on the evidence, researches have concluded that RLS can run in families. For individuals who suffer from the condition before 40, it is more likely to be passed down.
The hormonal changes that a woman experiences during pregnancy may make RLS symptoms worse. There have been many cases where a woman developed RLS during pregnancy. Fortunately, many of these cases saw the symptoms vanish after delivery.
In addition to the above components, certain patients may be more likely to develop RLS than others. Below are some of the key risk factors.
- Iron Deficiency
- Peripheral Neuropathy
- Kidney Failure
- Spinal Cord Conditions
If you have one of these conditions, then treating it could help prevent or lessen your symptoms of RLS.
Since the exact cause of RLS is still unknown, there is no comprehensive treatment yet. However, by working with a sleep specialist, you can devise a treatment plan to help lessen your symptoms.
Some aspects of treatment you can do at home by yourself, while others might require a physician’s prescription.
There are four types of medication that have been shown to help with RLS symptoms. However, they can have side effects for some patients, which your sleep specialist will explain to you.
- Drugs that increase dopamine in the brain
- Medications that interact with the calcium channel
- Opioids (high-potential for dependency)
- Muscle relaxants
- Sleep medications
Depending on the recommendations from your sleep specialist, you might also find some relief with the following lifestyle remedies.
- Stimulation: warm baths and muscle massages
- Temperature: application of warm or cool packs in alternation
- Sleep Hygiene: maintain a regular sleep schedule in a comfortable sleeping environment
- Activity: moderate exercise without overdoing it
- Diet: avoid stimulants such as coffee and tea (caffeine) and avoid alcohol
The best cases of treating restless legs syndrome occur when you work closely with a sleep specialist. In order for Dr. Shukla to provide the best treatment plans, it is important that you work together.
Some ways that you can improve your treatment plan include:
- Sleep Diary: By keeping detailed journals of how treatments affect your symptoms you can better progress through treatment plans
- Seek Support: Having a support group can help you get through this trying condition. Often, procedures may take time, so it is essential to have outside support as you progress through treatment.
- Stay Active: Exercise and daily, regular massages of your legs can help you to make progress.
Even though circadian rhythm disorders themselves are not dangerous, they can have a severe impact on your life. If left untreated, the byproducts of them can become dangerous. Fatigue can lead to decreased performance and alertness while working or driving. Poor sleep can affect your mood and even contribute to depression. Schedule a consultation today to take back control over your sleep.
Dr. Shukla is an experienced sleep specialist who has helped countless patients regain the chance for a full night’s rest. With his skill and knowledge, he can help you get back on your feet and get the rest you need and deserve. He works with you every step of the way, tailoring your treatment so that it best fits your needs. Call Sleep MD NYC today at (917)746-3431 to take the first step toward treating your restless legs syndrome.