What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is considered to be both a neurological disorder and a movement disorder. It is broadly characterized by uncomfortable, sometimes painful or tingling sensations, usually in the legs. These sensations can also occur in the arms or feet. The pain is commonly described as a pulsing, throbbing, pulling, pushing, tingling, crawling, creeping, ants biting, pins and needles type of pain. The pain is usually localized to limb at issue. These sensations typically result in an overwhelming desire to move to try to alleviate the pain. Moving the limb that is the source of the pain seems to provide at least partial temporary relief to the sufferer. When symptoms flare-up during bedtime or the middle of the night it can be catastrophic for the person suffering from RLS. Often the symptoms worsen and interrupt sleep or falling asleep when the person tries to relax. This creates a vicious feedback cycle of insomnia as the person tries to relax which triggers another painful attack.
Restless legs syndrome has also been referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease. A conventional healthcare definition of Restless Legs Syndrome is the condition of having episodic overwhelming urges to move the legs (or other limbs) that is may occur alongside unpleasant sensations. The urge to move the legs typically worsens as the person is resting or relaxing. Movement of the legs can help provide temporary superficial relief.There are pharmacological treatments that all have various side effects and varying degrees of efficacy. The symptoms are often present at night or during times of napping. This general association of RLS with sleep often results in sleep disturbances. Many people suffering from RLS while sleeping also experience a set of involuntary stereotypic movements of the legs, also described as ‘leg jerking’, that is known by the formal technical description ‘periodic leg movements of sleep’.
Constant sleep interruptions can have devastating consequences to a person’s waking life. Poor quality sleep has been well-demonstrated to result in daytime sleepiness and exhaustion. This daily fatigue and lethargy impairs concentration, reduces the body’s ability to fight off infection, and negatively impacts mood. Disrupted sleep increases the risk of clinical depression and other mental health disorders. Every aspect of a person’s life is affected from work relationships to personal attitude and self-motivation.
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The following are some additional background stats on RLS.
- RLS may affect as many as one in 10 people in the U.S.
- 5 million U.S. adults have moderate to severe RLS
- 5 percent of adults have mild RLS
- 1 million children of school age have restless leg syndrome
- RLS affects twice as many women as men
- Moderate RLS have symptoms one to two times per week
- Severe RLS have symptoms more than twice per week
- 80 percent of people with RLS also have periodic limb movement of sleep
- Symptoms continue longer and become more frequent with age
- Onset of RLS does not indicate other neurological disease.