You’re relaxing in the evening, but you get annoyed because even in your favorite chair, you need to move your legs. Or it’s bedtime, but it’s taking forever to get to sleep because you just can’t seem to get your legs comfortable, and you need to adjust them constantly. Maybe it’s a long airplane flight, and the more you sit, the more your legs are bothering you.
You may be suffering from restless legs syndrome. Your restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA—at Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center—understands the issue, and offers help to calm the discomfort and urges of this disease.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom disease (WED) or Ekbom syndrome, is most frequently characterized by the uncontrollable urge to shake or move your legs.
One of the key signs of RLS is the fact that it mostly manifests in the evenings, especially when the sufferer is sitting or lying down. This can make it hard to relax, and sometimes next to impossible to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Along with these twitches, tremors, and sudden jerks, many RLS sufferers also report feeling sensations in their legs such as tingling, itching, and pins-and-needle pain. If you’re suffering from restless legs syndrome, you’re not alone. It affects almost 10 percent of the U.S. population.
RLS can begin at any age, although many people who exhibit the symptoms of RLS are middle-aged or older. As these people get older the issues can happen more frequently and last longer.
2 Types of Restless Legs Syndrome
RLS comes in 2 types: primary restless legs syndrome, and secondary restless legs syndrome.
- Primary RLS: exhibits as a central nervous system disorder.
- Secondary RLS: exhibits as a secondary issue caused by another disorder.
Possible Causes of RLS
The fact of the situation is, there is no known cause for restless legs syndrome. There are, however, restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA recognizes similarities amongst sufferers that could point to possible causative connections.
Heredity may be a determining factor. According to studies anywhere from 40 to 90 percent of RLS victims have an immediate (1st degree) family member who also suffers from the issue. So if you have a brother, sister, parent, or child with RLS, it increases the likelihood you will have it.
Chronic diseases may promote the development of RLS, or worsen its symptoms. Some of those chronic diseases include:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Kidney failure
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Iron deficiency (anemia
Some medications may also contribute to restless leg syndrome. Those medications may include:
- Anti-nausea drugs
- Cold medications
- Heart medications
- Blood pressure drugs
There are also other possible health conditions or physical situations that could contribute to RLS. They can include:
- Thyroid problems
- Neurologic lesions
- Spinal cord injury
- Sleep apnea/narcolepsy
- Varicose veins
- Hand/feet nerve issues
Related treatment:the best restless legs syndrome treatment in Arkansas.
Basal Ganglia Dysfunction
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps your nervous system send messages/impulses between your nerve cells.
Your basal ganglia, located deep in the core of your brain at the top of the brain stem, uses dopamine for motor control. The basal ganglia are what sends the signals so you can move with purpose. If the basal ganglia are in some way damaged, or if dopamine levels are disrupted in the brain, this often causes involuntary movements, and may be a related factor.
It’s unfortunate, but your restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA has no medical tests for restless legs syndrome. The only way it’s diagnosed is by recognizing symptoms. However, medical tests and other exams can be used to rule out any other disorders that might be causing the symptoms.
Symptoms of RLS
The terrible irony of restless legs syndrome is that it strikes most frequently when the sufferer is trying to rest.
The sufferer feels discomfort combined with a strong urge to move their legs. This discomfort can include throbbing, aching, or distressing sensations deep within the legs. These uncomfortable leg sensations usually start or become worse when the patient is sitting, lying down, or otherwise trying to relax.
Another symptom is relief from RLS by moving (walking, standing, etc.). Sometimes this can feel like the only relief.
Because of the resting positions (sitting or lying down), the symptoms get worse at night. In more severe cases, the symptoms may begin earlier in the day. But as a rule, they become much more intense at bedtime.
Many people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which involves repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep. Though not technically RLS, it can seem like it.
Self-Help for Your RLS in Arkansas
Though there’s no truly known cause of restless legs syndrome, there are some things you can do to help abate or possibly cure RLS if it’s caused by an underlying, curable health condition. The specialists at Ozark Vein & Artery Center typically recommend the following lifestyle adjustments for patients with RLS.
According to an article in the Journal of the Neurological Sciences, stress and depression can contribute to the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. If you can manage your stress/depression, or even lessen/alleviate it, this can help diminish the triggering of those symptoms.
Consult your health care provider first, then use techniques for stress reduction, possibly including:
- Focused breathing
- Healthy diet
- Social connection (in person)
- Prescription medication
Alcohol use can significantly increase the chances of RLS. According to a sleep center study, drinking 2 or more alcoholic drinks per day can increase the likelihood of leg movements during sleep by 300% in women and an almost 100% increase in men.
Alcohol can also make sleep more disrupted and on/off again. Because RLS happens mostly during resting periods, waking up means feeling restless legs syndrome more acutely. This type of intermittent sleep pattern can also contribute to stress, which makes our previous point all the more important.
Though this is just good sense for your overall health, smoking also impairs blood flow to muscles. This poor circulation can cause varicose veins, and is worsened by smoking and a sedentary lifestyle.
This lack of blood flow means your legs can feel heavy and uncomfortable, triggering RLS.
As a stimulant, caffeine increases arousal of your nervous system. You might feel that caffeine helps you “wake up,” but it also can contribute to anxiety and depression, insomnia—and restless leg syndrome.
Too Much Exercise
Exercise can help remediate your RLS symptoms. However, too much exercise can make the symptoms worse. If your muscles are aching or your joints are sore, this can contribute to the movement of your legs.
Not Enough Exercise
Though too much exercise can exacerbate the symptoms of your restless legs syndrome, not enough exercise can also do it. Exercise doesn’t have to be weight training or pilates. It can just be getting up, moving around, walking or stretching.
To help your situation, you need to avoid extended periods of inactivity. A sedentary lifestyle can heighten the issues, so try to:
- Interrupt sitting for extended times with movement/stretching/ankle & foot rotation.
- Yoga poses can provide a gentle “workout” for better circulation and muscle stretching.
- Choose jobs or work settings that are more active.
- Invest in or ask for office equipment that lets you stand, or even walk while working.
- Be honest about why you’re moving around; peers and family will support you.
- If you must be inactive—travel, waiting rooms, etc—schedule those in the morning.
- At movies or in planes, choose an aisle seat so you can get up and move more easily.
- Make sure traveling includes stretch breaks.
Test for Vitamin/Mineral Deficiencies
A deficiency of certain vitamins and minerals can contribute to restless leg syndrome. Have your blood tested for levels of:
- Iron. A known contributor to RLS when deficient.
- Magnesium. It can help with sleep quality.
- Vitamin D. RLS symptoms can be more severe when deficient.
- Potassium. Deficiency contributes to muscle spasms.
- B12. Known to help relieve RLS symptoms.
- Folate. This increases blood flow, possibly helping with RLS.
The Vicious Cycle of Sleep Deprivation
Restless leg syndrome can make it difficult to get a night’s worth of sleep. Lack of sleep makes you tired and unable to handle stress. Stress and fatigue can cause RLS symptoms to worsen. And we’re back to home base, where the symptoms cause issues, which cause symptoms.
We highly recommend that along with adjusting your lifestyle, you should see a restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA at Ozark Regional Vein and Artery Center. They can test for venous and circulatory issues.
There are lots of tactics and tools a sleep specialist can recommend that could help you get more or better sleep despite your RLS. That in turn can help with your fatigue, which can help with stress, which can most likely help with—you guessed it—your restless leg syndrome.
Related topic: understanding restless leg syndrome causes.
Treating Restless Legs Syndrome in Arkansas
Venous insufficiency can cause leg cramping and muscle pain. RLS is often a symptomatic extension of this condition and its resultant pain..
Keep in mind when you occasionally find yourself bouncing or shaking your leg, this isn’t necessarily RLS. It’s actually normal, and pretty much everyone does it—so you shouldn’t overanalyze all your behaviors.
That being said, if you find that the urge to bounce/shake your leg starts to interfere with your life, that’s a good time to consult an RLS specialist.
This would be secondary RLS, but it still includes the uncontrollable urge to shake or move your legs. Note that “uncontrollable” is one of the key defining characteristics of RLS, along with the tingling, itching, and pins-and-needles sensations in the legs.
Venous insufficiency can lead to restless legs as the faltering blood valves cause blood to pool in the legs, making them bloat and causing muscles to cramp.
A restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA can help you control, and even erase, your venous insufficiency. They can offer treatments such as sclerotherapy injections, phlebectomy, ClosureFast procedure, and more. We suggest you try our virtual vein screening tool to schedule a consultation and take charge of your vein health.
Restless Legs Need Tireless Medical Professionals
We deliver world-class vascular care, along with providing treatment education to help you love the way your legs look and feel again.
Come to Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center to visit with a restless legs syndrome specialist in NWA, plus spider or varicose vein treatments. Our breadth of treatment options and in-depth medical experience in vein and artery health and treatments allows us to guide you toward lasting wellness solutions.
Patients come to Ozark Regional Vein & Artery Center from Fayetteville, Bentonville, Hot Springs, Springfield, Branson, and further reaches like Houston, Oklahoma City, Wichita, Des Moines, Memphis, Shreveport—and more. We ensure they receive the best concierge-level care possible.
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