Sleep Disorder: Restless Leg Syndrome
Incidence and Prevalence
OVERVIEW OF RESTLESS LEG
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move when at rest in an effort to relieve these feelings. The most distinguishing or exceptional feature of this disorder is that lying down and trying to relax activates the symptoms. This is one of the main reasons that people suffering from RLS have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
INCIDENCE AND PREVALENCE
This condition occurs in both men and women but is slightly more prevalent in females. Though it can manifest itself at any age, the severity of the condition does significantly increase with age. This disorder is oft not treated due to sufferers reluctance to seek medical attention fearing they will not be taken seriously. In addition, physicians often misdiagnose the symptoms attributing them to nervousness, insomnia, arthritis, muscle cramps and aging.
Most of the time the cause of this condition is unknown but it can be related to other factors though investigators do not know if those issues are in fact causative of the disorder. Anemic individuals or those who have a diminished iron levels in their blood seem to be more prone to restless leg syndrome, and at times see symptoms diminish with the treatment of their anemia. There are a number of diseases associated with Restless Leg Syndrome such as, Parkinsons, kidney failure, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy, so often the symptoms of RLS are relieved when these diseases are controlled.
Restless Leg Syndrome at times manifests itself in the third trimester of pregnancy but usually is resolved within 4 weeks after delivery.
RLS may be aggravated by certain medications such as: antinausea, antiseizure, antipsychotic and a number of allergy and cold remedies. The individuals physician should be consulted about alterations in the medication regimen. Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco have also been shown as aggravating substances especially to those individuals predisposed to developing this disorder. Reduction of symptoms has been achieved by elimination of these substances, though it is still unclear if Restless Leg Syndrome can be totally prevented with the exclusion of these substances.
COMMON SYMPTOMS OF RESTLESS LEG
Symptoms that those with RLS exhibit are unpleasant sensations in their legs with an uncontrollable urge to move. Sensations are described as achy, creepy, crawly, or prickly. Though the sensations mostly affect the inner leg between the knee and the ankle, it can involve the thighs, feet, arms and hands; however that rarely is the case. The condition manifests on both sides, though it can affect only one side of the body. Inactivity seems to be a trigger so that certain activities activate the condition. These activities include, long car trips, sitting in a movie theatre, long distance flights, relaxation or any lengthy immobilization.
Restless Leg Syndrome is first treated by focusing and treating the underlying disorder. If the associated medical condition is treated, often times the RLS can be controlled and symptoms alleviated. However, in cases when the RLS has no known cause, symptomatic treatment is followed. Treatment involves both medical and non-medical intervention, though for mild for moderate symptoms, life style and activity changes are recommended as a form of prevention.
Behavioral and Lifestyle Changes
Decrease or elimination of use of tobacco, caffeine and alcohol
Maintenance of a regular sleep pattern
Engaging in a regular, moderate exercise program
Utilization of Relaxation Techniques
Staying mentally alert in the evening prior to going to sleep
Physicians first focus on treating the underlying medical condition if one exists. If the RLS is idiopathic, having no known cause, than it is treated symptomatically with medications such as: Dopaminergic
Drugs, Dopamine Agonist, Sedatives, Opiates, Anticonvulsants or Alpha2
Magnetic therapy involves utilizing highly powerful, deeply penetrating, unipolar magnets. The magnets are placed around the leg below the knee, an area that restless leg syndrome predominately affects. (some health practitioners suggest placing the magnets in your socks for relief of restless leg syndrome, just as you would place them in your shoes during the day to alleviate cramping) The polarity facing the body is north as its negative field is one of healing and soothing the underlying nerves and muscles. The magnets used must of adequate gauss strength so that they can penetrate into the affected nerves and muscles.
Researchers conducting studies on magnetic effects on the body have posited that results suggest that magnetic energy relaxes the nerve endings thus producing a calming effect. Clinical studies have shown that some individuals who used magnets to treat restless leg syndrome found a significant improvement in their overall symptoms.
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