Do you have sudden sensations in your legs that cause you to have to move them? Some people have referred to these feelings as creepy crawlies, crazy legs, and many other descriptive names. If you have symptoms such as these, you could be among the 10 percent of the U.S. population that has restless legs syndrome (RLS).
There are no medical tests to conclusively determine whether or not a person has RLS. People who have the condition do not need the results of a test to prove they have it.
Most people who are afflicted only experience symptoms in the evening and night. However, RLS is a progressive condition that gets worse over the course of time. I have no way of knowing if there is a peak from which it cannot get worse. A few more years of life will determine that. Hopefully, a cure will be found.
The urgent spasms that overtook my leg, forcing it to kick, only bothered me at night in 1981. However, RLS spasms at present appear day and night. Generally, one leg at a time gets restless. On occasion, both legs are in spasms. With me, the knees are the epicenter. The smallest things can trigger an RLS episode … my cat brushing against my leg, a pedicurist touching my foot, an itch on my thigh.
What causes RLS?
Research has determined that it is a neurological condition. However, no conclusions have been reached as to a specific factor. RLS has been linked to, among other things:
- family history of RLS
- high blood pressure
The RLS Foundation has a wealth of information as well as an online support system. See Sources for a link.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) researchers are investigating the possible role of dopamine function in RLS. Dopamine is a chemical messenger which sends signals from one area of the brain to the other, regulating smooth, purposeful muscle activity. Impaired transmission of dopamine signals may play a role in RLS. Further research is being conducted. Get further details in Research Sources, below.
Help with RLS symptoms:
Walking, dancing or riding a bike are a few ways of getting relief. Even sitting and raising your legs, alternating from right to left can help. On a personal note, RLS has gotten me out of bed, yet getting into bed when symptoms are present has helped, particularly because my legs are straight. Then I just move my legs (as if walking or riding a bike), and pretty soon the leg relaxes. When I’m not home, however, I stand up, walk around, and, where possible, do some exercises that stretch the legs.
Find out what has helped others with RLS relieve their symptoms:
Mark Buchfuhrer, M.D., a pulmonologist, is also a restless legs syndrome expert who has been a very helpful resource to RLS sufferers all over the world. When I lived in the Los Angeles area, I was blessed to be one of his patients.
Discover what foods might trigger RLS episodes, vitamin and mineral supplements that have helped some, the benefits and pitfalls of various prescription medications. This is a fascinating RLS site that provides a lot of helpful ideas and answers to questions. Check the link under “Sources.”
Call for increased awareness:
RLS is getting more publicity. I’ve seen commercials on television advertising Requip, a popular medicine used to treat RLS. There doesn’t seem to be a “one-size-fits-all” treatment that is helpful to everyone suffering from RLS. Medicines for Parkinson’s disease are very effective for many RLS patients. Both conditions involve the nervous system and spasms.
This article is addressed to people who do not have restless legs syndrome, as well. Your awareness is important, especially if you are a care giver or in the medical field. The spasms (leg movements) are involuntary. Asking a person to stop twitching or kicking is like asking him or her to stop breathing or blinking. I had an RLS episode while I was in surgery. The doctor repeatedly asked me to keep my leg still. I could not comply.
May your legs be at peace!
RLS Foundation http://www.rls.org/NETCOMMUNITY/Page.aspx?&pid=471&srcid=531
Helpful hints and answers to questions http://www.rlshelp.org/