Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, affects the sleep of men and women and the chances one may experience this condition increase with age. Though approximately 15% of adults suffer from this condition, it actually occurs more often in women than men. The risk of developing restless leg syndrome can be further complicated by medical conditions such as arthritis, varicose veins, and diabetes.
How Does Restless Legs Syndrome Affect a Healthy Lifestyle?
People who suffer from restless legs syndrome often experience severe discomfort when sitting for long periods of time. This discomfort can cause them to want to avoid activities such as attending theaters or concerts, going out to dinner, or taking long drives. Even the act of sitting for long periods in meetings at work or classes and seminars can become a problem. Avoiding these social interactions or feelings of not being productive can cause some sufferers of restless legs syndrome to become depressed.
What are Some Signs of Restless Legs Syndrome
Individuals afflicted with this condition often experience an uncontrollable urge to move their extremities. On occasion this feeling affects the arms but is most commonly felt in the knees and lower legs. Pain may occur along with these sensations. The sensation itself is often described as pulling, itching, or tingling. In other cases it is reported as a burning or prickly feeling or the feeling that one’s skin is “crawling.”
How Does Restless Legs Syndrome Affect Sleep?
These sensations can occur anytime. When they occur at night they can have the effect of delaying your sleep which is why restless legs syndrome is sometimes classified as a sleep disorder. Though restless legs syndrome can also occur while one is asleep, another disorder that only occurs during sleep is called periodic limb movement disorder, or PLMD. The primary difference between these two conditions is that whereas restless legs syndrome’s movements are voluntary responses to unpleasant stimuli, periodic limb movement disorder is an involuntary response.
What are the Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome?
There are prescription treatments for restless legs syndrome. Most of these treatments are aimed at alleviating the discomfort and thus lessening the urge to move one’s limbs. Non-prescription treatments include relaxation therapies and lessening the intake of caffeine and alcohol and other dietary changes. Also, because many sufferers of restless legs syndrome are anemic or suffer from iron or folic acid deficiencies, iron supplements are recommended by medical professionals as an alternative to prescription treatment.
If you are experiencing poor sleep as well as some of the symptoms described above, you should have a discussion with a health professional. Because there is no single test that can detect the condition with certainty, restless legs syndrome is usually diagnosed by a medical professional based on a patient’s description of the symptoms they are experiencing. Due to the effect restless legs syndrome can have on your sleep and by extension your overall lifestyle, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor about your symptoms as there are therapies and treatments that can bring relief from this condition.