Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move legs, usually associated with unpleasant sensations often during sleep and relieved by movement. The major symptom is urging to move your legs, especially after rest and worsens in the evening. The other symptoms include:
- Tingling, burning or itching
- A creepy-crawly feeling
- Feeling like fizzy water is inside the blood vessels in the legs
- A painful, cramping sensation in the legs, particularly in the calves
- Leg jerking
- Pulling – feeling of pulling in the legs
- Throbbing – sensation of throbbing near the calves
- Aching- leg pain
The exact cause of RLS is not known. However, it is believed to be hereditary. Abnormalities in the brain can lead to this condition. Neurotransmitters (chemicals that help to transmit signal to the brain) abnormalities can cause this problem. The conditions which are likely to cause restless leg syndrome include:
- The iron deficiency anemia
- Peripheral neuropathy – damage to the nerves of limbs due to underlying conditions such as diabetes
- Parkinson’s disease
- Varicose veins
- Hyper- or hypothyroidism (over- or underactive thyroid glands)
- Severe kidney disease and uremia (kidney failure causing build up of toxins within the body)
- Amyloidosis (build-up of a starch-like substance in the body’s tissues and organs)
- Lyme disease
- Damage to spinal nerves
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjögren syndrome
Treatment invloves managing the underlying conditions. Iron replacement is suggested whose fasting serum ferritin levels are < 75 micrograms/litre. Usually recommended when the condition is secondary to iron deficiency anemia. Antidepressants are used to reduce the symptoms of depression, which may result in disturbed sleep pattern. Calcium channel regulators work for some chronic, persistent cases. Usually recommended in some cases. Narcotic medication is usually addictive and are used if other drugs do not work. Usually recommended in some cases. Sedatives are used to help sleep better.
- Avoid triggers such as caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
- Exercise every day.
- Stretch your legs at the beginning and end of each day.
- Massage your legs regularly.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal close to bedtime.
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoid daytime napping.
- Take a warm bath before bed.
- Try meditation, reading, stretching and light yoga before bed.
- Incorporate a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet with an emphasis on dark leafy greens.
- Eat a variety of iron-rich foods like lean meat.
- Include seeds, tree nuts, and legumes in your diet.
- Eat raw almonds for optimum nutrition.
- Try adding folate and magnesium to your diet, which have been shown in small studies to help some with restless legs syndrome. Find these in lentils, beans, dark leafy greens, almonds and edamame.