4 Things You Didn’t Know About Restless Legs Syndrome

Most people assume leg pain comes from physical activity. But restless legs syndrome isn’t aggravated by exercise and activity. In fact, people with restless legs syndrome experience the opposite problem: the worst pain comes when they’re sleeping or relaxing.

People who have restless legs syndrome (RLS) feel painful sensations in their legs or other areas of their body. They may describe it as a muscle ache, a buzzing sensation, or a crawling feeling.

Even though up to 10% of Americans experience RLS, many people have never even heard of it. Here are four things you probably didn’t know about RLS.

1. Anyone Can Get It

While women are more likely to get RLS, it can happen to both genders. It can also affect both children and adults.

RLS has a genetic risk-if you have a family member with RLS, you’re more likely to get it yourself. RLS can also worsen during pregnancy.

2. It Is Often Misdiagnosed

Sometimes, doctors reach the wrong diagnosis for RLS symptoms. In children, RLS is often incorrectly assumed to be growing pains.

Just like RLS patients, children with growing pains feel pain in their legs during the night. Growing pains aren’t actually caused by growth spurts, but may be associated with a blood vessel problem called vascular perfusion disorder. These pains should go away when the child becomes a teenager. Don’t assume that your child’s leg pain is due to growing pains rather than RLS without discussing the condition with a doctor.

For patients of any age, doctors may attribute RLS pain to cramps, arthritis, insomnia, or simply the effects of stress and aging. Discuss all the symptoms with a doctor so he or she can determine the correct diagnosis.

3. There Is Usually an Underlying Cause

Typically, restless leg syndrome doesn’t just come out of nowhere. One theory is that it is caused by a dysfunction in how the brain uses dopamine.

Many people with RLS have an iron deficiency. Your doctor should test your iron levels to determine if this is causing RLS.

Also, many people with vein disease, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, kidney failure, or peripheral neuropathy have RLS. Many people with ADHD have RLS as well, although ADHD isn’t proven to cause RLS.

Certain medications such as antihistamines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, and antiemetics can worsen RLS symptoms.

4. It Can Be Treated

For some people, exercising, getting enough sleep, and cutting back on alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine can relieve RLS symptoms. Others find relief by massaging their legs or using vibrating pads. Still others relieve symptoms with dopaminergic drugs, anticonvulsants, or pain relievers.

If another disease is associated with your RLS, treating this disease can decrease your RLS symptoms.

One of these underlying diseases is vein disease. In fact, in one study, researchers noticed that 36% of people at a vein disease clinic had RLS, compared to 19% of a control group. A total of 98% of the RLS patients visiting the vein clinic were diagnosed with a chronic venous disorder. A vein specialist can determine if vein issues are causing your restless leg syndrome.

Vein treatments like endovenous ablation laser therapy and ultrasound-guided foam scleropathy can relieve your varicose vein pain, and thereby relieve your RLS symptoms. Endovenous ablation laser therapy uses lasers to close varicose veins. With ultrasound-guided foam scleropathy, the doctor injects a drug into your veins and tracks its progress with an ultrasound.

If you’re experiencing restless leg syndrome, trying to get rest at night can be tortuous. A lack of sleep can lead to further health problems. Fortunately, you can find relief. Visit the Sheen Vein Institute for diagnosis and treatment of restless leg syndrom.

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