It is estimated that as much as 10% of the U.S. population is affected by restless leg syndrome (RLS), which is more than those affected by type 2 diabetes. While there is not currently a cure for RLS, there are many treatments, coping strategies, and support resources available to help individuals and families living with the disorder.
Restless leg syndrome can affect anyone, regardless of age. It is found in both sexes but is more common in women. RLS can begin at any age, even young children. RLS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed, especially if the symptoms are intermittent or mild.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome?
RLS is a treatable neurological disorder that results in an irresistible urge to move the legs or other parts of the body. The symptoms are often accompanied by unusual or unpleasant sensations that occur most often in the evening. Relief comes with movement of the legs.
Sufferers of restless leg syndrome may move their legs voluntarily, or their legs may move involuntarily. In children, restless leg syndrome is often misdiagnosed as “growing pains.” The disorder can severely disrupt sleep and reduce the quality of life. Because RLS often interferes with sleep, it is also considered a sleep disorder.
Some conditions can mimic restless leg syndrome. These include:
Nerve problems, such as peripheral neuropathy caused by diabetes (diabetic neuropathy), and circulation difficulties.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
In most cases, doctors do not know the cause of restless legs syndrome; however, research is ongoing.
A variation in a gene is thought to contribute to a greater risk of having RLS.
RLS may also be related to abnormalities in brain chemicals (neurotransmitters) that help regulate muscle movements, or to abnormalities in the part of the central nervous system that controls automatic movements.
Also, poor venous circulation of the legs (such as with varicose veins) can cause restless leg syndrome.
RLS can sometimes result from an underlying medical condition (secondary RLS); however, most of the time, the cause is not apparent. The two most common medical conditions are iron-deficiency anemia (low blood count) and peripheral neuropathy (damage to the nerves of the arms and legs, often caused by an underlying condition such as diabetes).
Other factors associated with the development or worsening of restless legs syndrome include:
Vitamin and mineral deficiency, such as magnesium deficiency and vitamin B-12 deficiency.
How is Restless Leg Syndrome Treated?
There are no cures for primary RLS. However, treatments can help control the condition, decrease symptoms, and improve sleep. Treatment for secondary RLS (RLS caused by another medical problem) involves treating the underlying cause.
The initial treatment of RLS is to avoid substances or foods that may cause or worsen the problem. Also, a review of all medications will help determine if drug interaction could be causing the symptoms.
For some, medications may help treat RLS, but the same drugs are not effective for everyone. A drug that works initially can lose its effectiveness over time. Furthermore, drugs for treating primary RLS do not cure the condition; rather, they only relieve the symptoms.
For patients with mild to moderate RLS, lifestyle changes such as a regular exercise program, establishing consistent sleep patterns, and eliminating or decreasing the use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may be helpful.
Treatments for RLS include:
Compression therapy. A simple and effective means of improving blood flow in the lower limbs by strengthening vein support with special stockings.
Duplex ultrasound. A non-invasive evaluation of blood flow through the arteries and veins.
Endovenous ablation. An image-guided, minimally invasive treatment using radiofrequency or laser energy to cauterize (burn) and close off varicose veins.
Endovenous thermal ablation (laser therapy). A technique that uses a laser or high-frequency radio waves to create intense, targeted heat to close up a varicose vein or incompetent vein.
Microphlebectomy. A technique to remove varicose veins by making several tiny incisions (cuts) in the skin through which the varicose vein is removed. Stitches are not usually required.
Phlebectomy. A minimally-invasive surgical procedure that removes surface varicose veins.
RF ClosureFAST. The use of radiofrequency (RF) energy to heat and seal veins.
Sclerotherapy. Injection of a solution that irritates a blood vessel’s lining causes it to collapse and eventually become invisible.
VenaSeal. A method of sealing superficial varicose veins using an adhesive agent.
If varicose veins are thought to cause RLS, then a procedure to repair the circulation may be considered.
Novus Spine & Pain Center
Dr. Torres established Novus Spine & Pain Center in Lakeland, Florida, with the goal of providing the highest quality pain management care to every patient. Whether pain is the result of an injury or from another condition such as restless legs syndrome, Dr. Torres offers many different treatment options.
Novus Spine & Pain Center utilizes a comprehensive approach and cutting-edge therapies to restore normal function and allow patients to regain an active lifestyle while minimizing the need for opiates. As our patient, you are our top priority. Our goal is to help you achieve the best possible quality of life.
Our Mission Statement:To provide the best quality of life to people suffering from pain, by providing state of the art treatments, knowledge and skill, compassion, and respect for all.