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Restless Leg Syndrome: Where It Comes From and How to Stop It

Restless Leg Syndrome: Where It Comes From and How to Stop It

It can be highly frustrating to fall into bed at night, anxious for some good sleep, only to have restless legs keep you awake and uncomfortable. Called restless leg syndrome (RLS), up to 10% of people in the United States experience the same frustration as you. 

If you’re struggling to get the rest you need because of restless leg syndrome, Dr. Farhad Aduli and the team here at Louisiana Heart and Vascular may be able to help.

In the following, we explore what we know about RLS and how we can quiet your legs to improve your sleep.

RLS at a glance

The condition is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, but restless leg syndrome is a far more apt description. Most people with RLS report strange sensations in their legs that create an irresistible urge to move them.

The sensations vary, but they’re often described as:

The sensations tend to be most severe in the evening or night when lying down to sleep. Furthermore, the sensations most often develop in the legs, though some people have reported the sensations in other areas, such as their arms.

These uncomfortable sensations are often remedied — fleetingly — by moving the legs, but they usually return when the legs are at rest again.

Causes of RLS

The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but we do know that it’s a neurological sensory disorder, which means the problem is in the brain. More specifically, the problem may stem from the basal ganglia, which is an area of your brain that controls movement. For fluid movement, the brain produces the chemical dopamine, and this chemical may not reach the basal ganglia in adequate amounts.

Researchers have also identified a genetic component when it comes to RLS, especially if people develop the problem early (before age 40).

Significantly, we also know that there’s a gender link as women are twice as likely as men to develop RLS, which points to a potential hormonal connection.

Outside of genetics and gender, we believe other factors may also play a role in RLS, such as:

Mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, have also been associated with RLS.

Diagnosing and treating RLS

Since we don’t know the exact cause of RLS, there’s no diagnostic test that can confirm its presence. Instead, we review your symptoms and then perform an extensive analysis of your health.

If we find, for example, that you have iron deficiency, we can supplement your iron intake, which may remedy your RLS. We’ve also found that magnesium supplements can help with RLS.

For post-menopasual women, hormone replacement therapy may help relieve RLS.

Lifestyle changes are also key for treating RLS, such as:

If your RLS is severe and doesn't respond to lifestyle modifications or supplements, we can turn to prescription medications, such as dopamine agonists or anti-seizure medications.

Rest assured, we will work with you until we find the right combination of treatments to keep your legs quiet during the night so you can get some sleep.

For expert help for restless leg syndrome, book an appointment online or over the phone with Louisiana Heart and Vascular today. We’re located in Covington and Franklinton, Louisiana, and we also serve patients from Mandeville, Hammond, and Slidell.

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