Restless Leg Syndrome

Sleepless Woman

There is more and more being written lately about something called Restless Leg Syndrome. Well, many people misuse this term to describe someone who can’t keep their leg still, like the guy next to you in church who keeps bouncing his knee up and down. That’s Nervous Leg Syndrome! Then there’s the condition that my 6-year-old nephew has - Restless Kid Syndrome. But Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is an actual medical condition that has a variety of different causes.

The symptoms of RLS can be some of the following: pain, aching, numbness and tingling, throbbing, pulling or having a “creeping” sensation of the extremity. The symptoms can vary from one person to the next, but one thing that does not vary is the uncontrollable urge to move the leg to relieve the symptoms. For reasons that we don’t completely understand, movement of the extremity will bring about relief. Symptoms begin to worsen in the evening when people rest for the day and they can become particularly prominent at night. This of course can cause a substantial decline in one’s quality of sleep and can actually interfere with an individual’s ability to function on a daily basis.

RLS affects both men and women, but women are affected twice as frequently. Up to 10 percent of the adult population of the U.S. may have some degree of the problem. A more advanced cousin of RLS is something called PLMS, Periodic Limb Movement of Sleep. In this condition, the limb movements occur repeatedly throughout the night on an involuntary basis and of course disrupt sleep tremendously.

There are a variety of causes of Restless Leg Syndrome, many of which are very difficult to sort out. One of the most common causes however is Chronic Venous Insufficiency. Roughly 35 percent of RLS can be caused by leg vein problems. The symptoms of the two can be similar, however they are two distinctly different entities. The good news is that diagnosing venous insufficiency is easy and something that we do every day of the week with a painless ultrasound test. Better news: treating the underlying venous disease can eliminate symptoms of RLS completely.

I’m sorry to report that as of yet there is nothing we can do for Restless Kid Syndrome but Restless Leg Syndrome can be an easy fix and a good night’s sleep may be just around the corner.    

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