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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a sensory disorder causing an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. This urge generally results from unpleasant feelings (often described as creeping, crawling, tingling, burning or painful) that occur at rest. Movement eases the feelings, but only temporarily.

RLS can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. People with RLS often do not get enough sleep and may feel tired and sleepy during the day. Many people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), a condition in which a person's legs twitch or jerk uncontrollably every 10 to 60 seconds, usually during sleep.

There are two forms of RLS:

  • Primary - There is no known cause of Primary RLS, although it appears to run in families.
  • Secondary - RLS can be caused by another disease or condition, or as a result of taking certain medications. Pregnant women are known to suffer from RLS, particularly in the last trimester. The condition usually improves or disappears within a few weeks of delivery.

To diagnose RLS, your physician will give you a physical exam and take a complete medical and sleep history. Although there is currently no test for RLS, your physician may order blood tests to look for underlying conditions such as low iron stores or iron deficiency; diabetes; kidney disease, and vitamin or mineral deficiencies.

Treatment may include lifestyle changes, such as exercise; avoidance of tobacco, alcohol, caffeine and some medications like antihistamines; adoption of good sleep habits, such as keeping a regular sleep schedule; massage of the leg or arm, and heat or ice packs. Medicines commonly used to treat Parkinson's Disease have been shown to reduce the amount of leg motion and are sometimes prescribed for managing RLS. New and different medications also are available.

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