Why Treating Restless Leg Syndrome Now Will Benefit Your Health as You Age

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, usually triggered by an uncomfortable sensation in the legs. RLS is believed to be caused by dopamine imbalance. Dopamine is a chemical that transmits signals between nerve cells in the brain. There is no cure for restless leg syndrome, but it is treatable.

Who is at Risk?

Restless leg syndrome can affect anyone, but it occurs mostly among people with a family history, women and older adults. Certain health conditions such as diabetes, iron deficiency and kidney failure, can also trigger RLS. Treating the underlying health condition generally relieves RLS symptoms.

Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Symptoms range from mild to severe and can come and go. They worsen at night and can disrupt sleep. Jiggling or stretching the legs or walking around provides temporary relief. Symptoms include:

  • Night-time leg twitching (which is also associated with periodic limb movement, a condition in which the legs kick and twitch while you sleep)
  • Unpleasant sensation of aching, crawling, creeping, itching, pulling or throbbing in the legs

Why You Should Treat RLS Now Rather Than Later

Restless leg syndrome can occur at any age, and can worsens as you age. Mild symptoms can be relieved by making some lifestyle changes. These changes not only lessen symptoms, they improve your overall health and keep your strong and vital all through your golden years.

  • Get plenty of sleep and stick to a set sleep schedule.
  • Exercise. Moderate exercise such as low- or moderate-impact aerobics, can reduce symptoms. Avoid excessive physical activity, which can worsen symptoms.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine and cigarettes.
  • Lose weight if you are obese or overweight.
  • See your doctor or a nutritionist to check if you have vitamin deficiencies, which cause restless leg syndrome.
  • Stress worsens RLS. Do stress-reducing activities such as medication, stretching or yoga.
  • Limb massages, hot, cold or whirlpool baths or hot or cold presses on affected areas also relieve symptoms. 

Medications to Treat RLS

Medication is generally only recommended for persons whose RLS symptoms occur more than three nights a week, unless otherwise directed by a doctor. Commonly prescribed medications include:

  • Alpha2 agonists
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Dopamine agonists
  • Dopaminergic agents
  • Opiates

Medications to avoid when you have RLS include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Over-the-counter sleeping pills

Ask your doctor what the best treatment option is for you.

Contact our Atlanta office if you are having any issues which may be a result of RLS. We are here to assist in diagnosing sleep conditions and would love to speak with you.

 

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