Restless legs syndrome (RLS), or Willis-Ekbom disease, is a sleep disorder that, as its name suggests, causes an uncomfortable, irresistible urge to move your legs. Symptoms usually arise while lying down in bed to go to sleep, but they may also occur after prolonged periods of sitting down. With RLS, you may have sensations of itching, throbbing, burning, or aching, which are relieved by moving the legs through stretching or walking.
Signs and Symptoms
Along with extreme discomfort and an urge to move the arms and legs at bedtime, RLS may cause significant sleep disturbances, including difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. As a result, people with RLS may struggle with daytime sleepiness, work performance issues, irritability, and other symptoms of sleep deprivation. Over time, poor sleep can lead to cardiovascular issues and other more significant health problems.
The causes of RLS are unknown, but it does seem to run in families. Certain medical conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, depression, kidney disease, fibromyalgia, and hypothyroidism may also contribute to RLS.
There is no test for RLS, so it is diagnosed on symptoms alone. However, doctors may utilize blood tests, sleep studies, and neurological exams to rule out other conditions before diagnosing RLS. Fortunately, symptoms are often resolved with non-drug treatments and lifestyle changes including regular exercise, avoiding caffeine, use of a heating pad, massage, and stress management. Iron and magnesium supplements may also be beneficial. In some cases where symptoms are severe and unaided by alternative therapies, prescription medication may be used.
If you are experiencing symptoms of RLS, request a visit through WHVC to consult a licensed medical provider who can get you back on the path to healthy sleep.