What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome? And Other FAQs About RLS
Are you constantly moving your feet and toes? You may have restless leg syndrome!
If you have an irresistible urge to move your legs, especially when you’re lying down or sitting, you may have restless legs syndrome (RLS). The sensation is often described as a tingling, creeping, crawling, or burning feeling. For some people, it’s mild. For others, it can be so severe that it disrupts sleep and daily activities.
There’s no one test for RLS. Doctors diagnose it based on your symptoms and how much they interfere with your life. There’s no cure, but treatments can help relieve the symptoms. RLS is thought to be caused by an imbalance in the brain’s chemical dopamine. This chemical helps send signals that control muscle movement. In people with RLS, something goes wrong with the way dopamine is used by the nervous system.
While the specific root cause of restless leg syndrome isn’t known, it can be triggered by numerous underlying medical conditions. RLS is more common in women than in men and usually begins after age 40. Certain health conditions, such as iron deficiency, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease, may also increase your risk. Chronic venous insufficiency, the root cause of your vein problems, is one of the most common causes of restless leg syndrome.
RLS symptoms usually worsen at night. They may be so bad that you can’t sleep. Over time, they can happen during the day, too. If you have RLS, you may also have:
- Pain in your legs
- Cramping in your legs
- A strong urge to move your legs
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Tiredness during the day
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What causes restless leg syndrome?
There are many possible causes of restless legs syndrome (RLS), but the exact cause is unknown in most cases. RLS is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the brain’s chemical dopamine. This chemical helps to send signals from the brain to the muscles. When something goes wrong with how dopamine interacts with your brain, you may suffer from the symptoms of restless legs syndrome. This condition can be triggered by numerous underlying factors, such as iron deficiency, genetics, pregnancy, kidney failures, and chronic venous insufficiency.
Iron deficiency is the most common cause of RLS. Iron is needed for the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps regulate muscle movement. Without enough iron, dopamine levels can drop, causing restless legs.
Pregnancy can also cause RLS due to the increased iron requirements of the body during this time. As many as one in five pregnant women may experience RLS. You may also suffer from the symptoms of restless leg syndrome because of underlying vein disease.
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Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is a condition that occurs when the veins in your legs are unable to efficiently pump blood back to your heart. This can cause the blood to pool in your legs, leading to swelling, pain, and cramping. CVI is a common cause of RLS. The symptoms of RLS and CVI often occur at the same time and can worsen when you’re inactive for long periods of time, such as sitting or standing.
Other Medical Conditions
Numerous medical conditions can lead to restless legs syndrome. Kidney failure can lead to RLS because of the build-up of toxins in the blood. Dialysis can help to remove these toxins and relieve RLS symptoms. Certain nervous system disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can also cause RLS.
How to get rid of a restless feeling?
If you have been diagnosed with restless legs syndrome (RLS), you may feel like you’re stuck with the condition for life. However, there are things you can do to lessen the symptoms and get some relief. Here are a few tips on how to get rid of restless feeling in the legs:
- Take regular breaks during the day. If you have a sedentary job, make sure to get up and walk around for a few minutes every hour or so. This will help to keep your circulation going and reduce the chances of your legs feeling restless.
- Exercise regularly. Exercise is not only good for your overall health, but it can also help to reduce the symptoms of RLS. A moderate amount of exercise is usually the best, as too much can actually make the symptoms worse.
- Stretch your legs before bed. If you often find yourself waking up with restless legs, try stretching your legs for a few minutes before going to bed. This can help to relax your muscles and reduce the chance of them becoming restless during the night.
- Try taking a warm bath before bed. Soaking in a warm bath can also help to relax your muscles and reduce the symptoms of RLS.
- Consider taking medication. If lifestyle changes don’t seem to be helping, there are a number of medications that can be used to treat RLS. Speak to your doctor about your options and find the one that’s right for you.
- Consult a vein doctor: If your restless legs worsen at night and if you also have other signs and symptoms of vein disease, such as leg swelling, leg heaviness, and spider veins, you must contact a board-certified vein doctor. The vein doctor will identify and treat the root cause of restless leg syndrome to ensure long-lasting relief from restless legs.
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