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- Nervous Diseases -

November 11th, 2019


Restless Legs

 

Restless Legs and You

 

Definition

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. It is not described as painful but can be distinctly bothersome or even excruciating. The symptoms occur when the subject is resting or otherwise inactive, such as in an airplane or movie theater. Restless legs are relieved partially and only evanescently by walking or stretching.

 

Prevalence

RLS affects 5-15% of the US population. Overall, it is about twice as common in women as in men. Restless legs can occur at any age but is more frequent and often becomes more severe after the age of 45.

 

Cause

The cause of most RLS is unknown but there are some associations. Heredity predisposes toward RLS, which is familial in 25-75% of cases; nevertheless, there is no genetic test. Pregnancy also predisposes, and RLS may affect 20-45% of pregnant women.

 

RLS is also associated with folate or magnesium deficiency, diabetes, Lyme disease, and B12 deficiency.

 

Finally, restless legs is associated with kidney disease and iron deficiency. RLS may subside after kidney transplant in patients with kidney failure. Treatment with iron may improve patients whose RLS results from iron deficiency.

 

Course

RLS for which no cause has been identified can usually be treated only symptomatically, not definitively. Although there are remissions lasting days, weeks, months, or even years, such RLS may gradually worsen with age, becoming more frequent and more severe, occasionally involving the upper extremities.

 

Treatment

The most frequent drugs used to treat RLS are the anti-seizure drugs gabapentin and pregabalin or the anti-Parkinson drugs ropinirole, pramipexole, and rotigotine.

 

Non-drug therapies also contribute to the therapy of RLS. Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco is suggested, along with the establishment of regular sleep patterns. Moderate exercise, but not just before bed, is also thought to be helpful. Additionally, a warm bath at bedtime as well as leg massage may help.

 

Of course, if symptoms are mild or infrequent, treatment may not be needed.

 

 

Thomas Falasca, DO

 

Further Information

Further information is available at

 

BRAIN

P.O. Box 5801

Bethesda, MD 20824

800-352-9424

www.ninds.nih.gov

 

National Sleep Foundation

1010 N. Glebe Road, Suite 310

Arlington, VA 22201

703-243-1697

www.sleepfoundation.org

 

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation

3006 Bee Caves Road, Suite D206

Austin, Texas 78746

512-366-9109

www.rls.orgrls.org

 

References

Bozorg, A., & Benbadis, S. (2019, June 25). Restless Legs Syndrome. Retrieved from https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1188327-overview

 

Restless legs syndrome fact sheet (2001). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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