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Understanding the Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Posted Nov 22 2009 10:01pm
Restless leg syndrome is a very real problem that causes a sudden desire to move your legs. It is important to have an understanding of restless leg syndrome in order to obtain targeted treatment. Understanding the symptoms of restless leg syndrome can help your doctor obtain a proper diagnosis, and is based on history and description of the symptoms. 

The urge to move the legs is irresistible and is associated with uncomfortable feelings. The symptoms of restless leg syndrome are worse when sleeping, and can interfere with rest. 

Sleep deprivation from restless leg syndrome can interfere with productivity at work and at home. Some individuals experience frequent jerking movements that occur intermittently and disrupt sleep. Sensations in the legs are described as “crawling”, “itching”, “pulling” and “creeping”.

Diagnosis of restless leg syndrome is based on the following:

Sudden desire to move your legs accompanied by unusual or uncomfortable sensations
Increased urge when trying to rest
Symptoms are better when the legs move
Symptoms are worse at night

Restless leg syndrome affects all genders, ethnicity, and age groups. It is considered a hereditary disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, restless leg syndrome affects five to eleven percent of individuals in North America and Europe. In July, 2009, findings that restless leg syndrome is linked to a gene mutation were published.
According to Carles Vilariño-Güell, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, the gene mutation associated with restless leg syndrome…” is in a portion of the protein that is identical in species as distinct to human as frogs and fish, which tells us that this portion is very important for the proper function of the protein and that the mutation has a very high chance of causing disease."
Restless leg syndrome is also linked to increased estrogen levels during pregnancy, making women more susceptible. The study was published February 2009 in the Journal, Sleep, and was conducted by German researchers.
Dr. Thomas Pollmächer, principal investigator for the study said, "We, for the first time, have quite direct evidence that RLS in pregnancy ... “is obviously directly related to hormonal changes (estrogens)," according to information from Reuters Health.
Restless leg syndrome is also common among patients with chronic kidney disease (CKD). The symptoms are also worse for those who take antihistamines to sleep. Multiple sclerosis is linked to increased risk for restless leg syndrome.
Restless leg syndrome not only decreases sleep quality, but was also found to be linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke, in a large study conducted by Harvard researchers and published in the January 1, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology

Treatment options for restless leg syndrome

The goal of treatment for restless leg syndrome is to relieve the symptoms. Addressing the underlying cause can help, especially if there is a problem with the nerves or blood flow in the legs that is most common in diabetics. 

Low levels of iron, folate, and magnesium can contribute to symptoms of restless legs. Your doctor can measure with a simple blood test and may suggest supplements if levels are low. Avoidance of caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can help treat restless leg syndrome. If you smoke, consume alcohol and enjoy caffeine, decreasing consumption can help. Moderate, versus vigorous exercise helps some individuals decrease the severity of symptoms. For some, massage, heat, and a warm bath helps decrease, but not eliminate restless leg syndrome symptoms. 


Ropinirole is an approved drug from the FDA that is also used to treat Parkinson’s disease, and can be prescribed to treat restless leg syndrome. Sedatives can help with sleep and relax the muscles as a treatment option. Pain medication can help with uncomfortable feelings associated with restless leg syndrome.

Symptoms of restless leg syndrome should not be ignored. Understanding restless leg syndrome symptoms, causes and treatment options are important to prevent risk of stroke, and improve sleep quality. There is no known cure for restless leg syndrome. Speak with your doctor if you think you have been experiencing symptoms.

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