As many as 10% of Americans have restless leg syndrome, an uncomfortable condition that causes intense and uncontrollable urges to move your legs. Restless leg syndrome is aptly named. Its title accurately describes the problem of painful sensations that only shifting your legs will relieve.
Here at PMC Foot and Ankle Clinic, our experienced podiatrist, Eric Blanson, DPM, diagnoses and treats restless leg syndrome and other neurological issues that cause foot, ankle, and leg pain.
About restless leg syndrome
Restless leg syndrome usually strikes when you’ve been inactive for a while, such as sitting at your desk at work, while watching a movie, or when you lie down to go to bed at night. Your symptoms probably become more intense as the evening wears on, making it difficult to drift off or get back to sleep if the sensations in your legs wake you up. The disease leads to intense daytime sleepiness, which can affect your moods, relationships, and performance at work or school.
Restless leg syndrome is technically classified as a sleep disorder because it occurs when you try to rest or sleep. It’s also categorized as a movement disorder because you must move your legs for relief. The condition also has strong links to fibromyalgia.
We don’t know the specific cause of restless leg syndrome, although there are several known contributing factors such as genetics. For example, if you develop the condition before age 40, chances are, it runs in your family. Some research indicates that the disease could be related to an imbalance in dopamine, a chemical in your brain that helps regulate muscle movement. Other risk factors for the condition include iron deficiency, kidney failure, spinal cord injuries, and neuropathy.
Diagnosing restless leg syndrome
Unfortunately, we don’t have a single test that confirms your diagnosis. Dr. Blanson provides a thorough consultation and looks for five diagnostic criteria:
- Intense urges to move your legs, accompanied by uncomfortable and distressing sensations such as crawling and tingling
- Symptoms increase or intensify when you are resting or lying down
- Movement partially or temporarily relieves your symptoms
- Symptoms are worse in the evening and nighttime
- No other medical or behavioral conditions explain these symptoms
Make an appointment if any of these symptoms sound familiar.
Treating restless leg syndrome
We offer customized treatment plans for restless leg syndrome, often combining lifestyle changes and medication. Every patient responds differently, so it may take some trial and error for us to find the best protocol for you.
For example, we may recommend that you avoid or decrease your alcohol or tobacco use, stick to a regular sleeping pattern, moderate exercise, leg massages, and warm baths. We may also recommend an iron supplement if a blood test reveals an iron deficiency.
If lifestyle adjustments aren’t enough to relieve your symptoms, we can prescribe medications to relieve restless leg syndrome. You might benefit from medicine that increases dopamine in the brain, as well as drugs that affect calcium channels. Opioids such as oxycodone can relieve symptoms, but we try to avoid them as they have a high addiction risk. Additionally, benzodiazepines might help you sleep better, but don’t necessarily relieve RLS, and they can cause daytime drowsiness. We only prescribe these as a last resort if other treatments don’t work.
If restless leg syndrome interferes with your health, sleep, or quality of life, give us a call, or make an appointment online today.