“Restless legs syndrome is driving me nuts! I mean, there’s no way I can sleep with these relentless crawling and tugging sensations. Any wonder I’m depressed? What’s going on? And where do I find relief?”
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) impacts the lives of some 8% of North America’s and Europe’s general population. That number drops to 3% for those living in the Mediterranean/Middle Eastern portion of the planet. And it goes as low as 1% for folks in the Far East.
Symptoms of RLS can commence at any age, and generally worsen as one ages. Sorry female readers, you’re twice as likely to have to deal with RLS than us guys.
Well, then – there’s no way we could ever expect to cover all aspects of RLS in just one article. So we’ll chat the “What is its?” and “Causes” in this piece. And I’ll post another in short order to handle the “Do I have its?” and “What to do about its?” Deal?
What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, RLS is a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move one’s body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. Though RLS most commonly affects the legs, one’s arms, torso, and even phantom limbs can get in on the action.
As it applies to the legs, RLS causes them to become extremely uncomfortable while sitting or lying down – typically in the evening. Bottom-line is, the presenting sensations strongly motivate one to get-up and move around. Relief-seeking actions often include stretching, jiggling the legs, pacing the floor, exercising, walking, and handling one’s legs. And, yes, these actions cause the icky sensations to temporarily go bye-bye.
So what about these “icky sensations?” As they strike the calves, thighs, or feet, they’re often described as…
Now, RLS rarely results in serious consequences. However, in some 3% of the population RLS can generate severe and persistent symptoms. These can include considerable mental distress, chronic insomnia, and daytime sleepiness. In addition, since RLS is worse when resting, those with severe RLS may avoid daily activities that involve long periods of sitting.
But there’s more. Studies tell us that those enduring RLS are more apt to isolate socially, experience frequent daytime headaches, or report libido issues.
Think there’s a relationship between RLS and depression – even anxiety? You’d better believe there is! And it appears to go both ways, one contributing to the other.
One final tidbit. RLS may be associated with a condition known as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). What’s that? Well, PLMD causes an involuntary flexing and extending of the legs while sleeping — and it happens totally beyond awareness. Amazingly, these twitching and kicking movements can number in the hundreds throughout any particular night. Fact is, though, they can even occur when one is awake. It’s thought that 80% of those enduring RLS also deal with PLMD.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?
Hmmm, would it surprise you if I said no one really knows – for sure – what causes RLS? Dang, why does it have to be that way with so many incredibly troubling conditions?
That said, there are a number of “cause possibilities” we can hang our hats on. Let’s see…
- Imbalance of the neurotransmitter dopamine. After all, it’s charged with sending messages to control muscle movement.
- Heredity: Yes, some 50% of those enduring RLS have found it runs in their family – especially if it first presented at an early age.
- Pregnancy or hormonal changes may temporarily worsen RLS signs and symptoms. Some women experience RLS for the first time during pregnancy, especially during their last trimester. The good news is, for most of these women signs and symptoms usually disappear quickly after delivery.
- Peripheral neuropathy
- Iron deficiency: Even without a diagnosis of anemia, iron deficiency can cause or exacerbate RLS.
So that’ll do it for part one – a quick descriptive thumbnail on RLS and its causes. Hope you found the information helpful. But never fear, there’s much more to come – those “Do I have its?” and “What to do about its?” You won’t want to miss them, so be sure to check-in with chipur in the days ahead.
Oh! In the meantime, stop by the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation website.
Image credit: cantsleep.com
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