Restless Leg Syndrome, What Is It?

by | January 24, 2018

What is restless leg syndrome? How do you get rid of it?

Let’s start off with the basics. What is it?

Restless leg syndrome, also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a feeling of uncomfortable sensations in your legs that gives you an irresistible urge to move them. It can be quite uncomfortable when you are experiencing it. RLS commonly occurs in the late afternoon or in the evening and can be severe during the night when you are resting, or lying in bed trying to sleep. It can also happen when a person is sitting for extended periods of time, eg watching a movie, on a plane, or on a long car journey.

Since symptoms usually occur in the evening or at night, it means it can be difficult to relax or fall asleep, or it may even wake you up from your sleep. The most common ways to relieve restless leg syndrome is to move your legs or walk around, however, the discomfit may start again as soon as you sit/lie back down. Since the symptoms are triggered by resting, RLS is actually classified as a sleeping disorder, and also as a movement disorder since people most commonly have to move to relieve symptoms.

RLS can cause exhaustion and daytime sleepiness, which can negatively affect mood, concentration, personal relationships, job and school performance. Many people who suffer from RLS are often unable to concentrate, and untreated moderate to severe RLS can lead to approximately a 20% decrease in work productivity. As if this wasn’t enough, it can also contribute to depression, anxiety and it can make traveling difficult.

It’s estimated that up to 10% of the U.S population, both men, and women, may have RLS, although women are more likely to suffer from it than men. It can begin at any age, but many people who experience severe symptoms tend to be middle-aged or older. As you get older the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer.

What causes restless leg syndrome?

In most cases the cause of RLS is unknown, however, it can also be related to or accompany the following factors or underlying conditions;

  • Iron deficiency
  • The use of alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • Pregnancy, especially in the last trimester
  • Certain medications such as anti-nausea drugs, antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants that increase serotonin and even some cold and allergy medications.
  • Neuropathy (nerve damage)
  • Obesity

How can it be treated?

Unfortunately, there is no cure for RLS, but there are some things you can do to alleviate the discomfort. Everyone experiences RLS differently but the key to living with it is to manage the symptoms. Changes like limiting caffeine and alcohol intake (which should be cut out while pregnant anyway), taking supplements, taking hot baths, and regular exercise all contribute to lessening the discomfort of RLS. If you are suffering from severe RLS, going to see your doctor is recommended. They can go through different avenues of treatment for RLS which may include:

  • Checking to see if you are deficient in any vitamins eg iron, B12,
  • Looking to see if you are taking any medications which may worsen the symptoms, which may include prescription drugs and over the counter herbal remedies,
  • Identifying habits that may worsen RLS,
  • Checking to make sure your diet is well balanced,
  • Going through various activities and exercises that may help to lessen your discomfort.

Some of the things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of RLS include:

  • Massaging the legs,
  • Walking,
  • Taking a hot bath,
  • Stretching,
  • Hot/cold packs,
  • Meditation,
  • Yoga.


Alex Jones

Associate Editor, USA | Contactable via [email protected]



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