Restless leg syndrome is characterized by pulling, creeping/crawling, throbbing or other uncomfortable sensations in the legs with an exquisite urge to move them. Moving your limbs provides immediate relief; however, the sensations quickly return the moment you stop moving them. Symptoms typically manifest at nighttime when you are at rest which makes this syndrome all the more frustrating.
I had my first experience with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) in my third trimester of pregnancy. I was between 7 and 8 months of pregnancy when I found myself unable to fall asleep, uncomfortable, frustrated and absolutely exhausted due to lack of sleep from my symptoms. Once I ventured into my second week of constant crawling sensations (which I described this symptom as creepy crawlies) and dull pain that only increased in severity I contacted my obstetrician. He explained to me that there was no specific test that could be performed; however reached a diagnosis under four basic diagnostic criteria of RLS. Four Basic Criteria In Which Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Is Diagnosed:
- An overwhelming need or urge to move the affected limb(s).
- Symptoms that are worse at night and are absent or in the morning.
- Symptoms that are triggered by rest, relaxation, and/or sleep.
- Sensory symptoms relieved with persistent movement.
Fortunately, my experience with RLS, although frustrating and exhausting was short lived. All symptoms dissipated within a month after delivery as symptoms do when the basis of diagnosis is made due to pregnancy.
RLS occurs in both men and women and in most cases the cause is unknown. Although symptoms of RLS can begin at any age, many of those affected are middle-aged and older and with age the symptoms will typically last longer and come on more frequently.
How Is Restless Leg Syndrome Treated?
Although, not eliminating symptoms in their entirety, many people find some relief with simple measures of treatment such as:
- Decreased use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
- Changing or maintaining a regular sleep pattern
- Iron supplementation if iron deficient
What is the prognosis of people with restless legs?
RLS is, for all general purposes, a lifelong condition. There is currently no cure, but available treatment options aimed towards minimizing symptoms. A wide variety of medications which include, but are not limited to dopaminergic agents (which increase dopamine level), benzodiazepines, opioids, and anti-convulsants can be prescribed.