If you experience pain or discomfort in your legs that makes you feel like moving around, especially at night, you may have a condition called restless leg syndrome. For an estimated six million people in the U.S., this is a familiar bedtime routine. After a long, busy day of work, fun, and family, they finally fall into bed at night and turn out the light. Hoping to fall to sleep, instead, quick movements of the legs (along with other symptoms) keep them up for hours. When they do manage to fall asleep in short intervals, restless legs wake them up regularly. Every morning they rise out of bed, barely having slept. Restless legs syndrome is a chronic, disruptive problem. What is restless syndrome and what are some restless leg syndrome treatments?
What is restless leg syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that results in uncontrollable twitching, jerking, pulling, and movement of the legs. This urge is involuntary and results in an inability to lie still or relax.
Restless leg syndrome affects as many as 10% of the population in the U.S. Recent research from Boston University Medical Center has found that beyond the symptoms that rob a person of sleep and cause discomfort, restless leg syndrome can be an initial indicator of an underlying disease. We’ll discuss the related conditions of restless leg syndrome, shortly.
There are two types of restless leg syndrome:
- Starting before the age of 45, RLS tends to get progressively worse over time and is generally hereditary. Mild cases may have long periods with no symptoms. This is categorized as a chronic condition.
- Starting after age 45, RLS does not appear to have a genetic component and seems to have a direct cause (medication, other condition, etc). Onset is abrupt, and symptoms generally stay at the same level, neither getting worse nor better over time. Removing the direct cause often resolves the symptoms.
Caucasian women experience restless leg syndrome at much higher rates than their African-American counterparts, indicating that race is a good predictor of this condition. Pregnancy and Parkinson’s disease are also potential causes, and as we’ll see, restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia are closely related. Adults with fibromyalgia are ten times more likely to experience restless leg syndrome.
What is PLMS?
Restless leg syndrome is often confused with periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). The two conditions are very different, although it is possible for a person to suffer from both at the same time.
PLMS is a sleep disorder in which a person involunt