Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosis & Treatment
Restless legs syndrome is a sleep disorder that can seriously impede your ability to get a healthy night’s sleep. Restless legs syndrome, also referred to as RLS is characterized by unpleasant feelings in the legs, causing the intense sensation to move your legs.
Typically, the sensation to move your legs will occur when you’re trying to rest, making it hard to fall and stay asleep. At Emerald Sleep Disorders Center in Eugene, we will get your restless legs syndrome under control through a variety of diagnostic and treatment techniques.
What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome
The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is not known. However, most researchers believe that restless legs syndrome is correlated to an imbalance of dopamine in the brain, since dopamine controls muscle movement.
Another factor that is thought to contribute to RLS is heredity. If one of your family members has RLS, you’ll be more likely to experience the disorder. Pregnancy and changes in hormones can also cause temporary RLS or worsen your RLS. Most women will experience RLS for the first time during pregnancy, which often subsides after pregnancy.
Risk Factors for RLS
While restless legs syndrome can develop at any age, this sleep disorder is much more common in the elderly and in women over men. For the most part, RLS isn’t correlated to other medical conditions. However, sometimes RLS is a symptoms of larger conditions, such as:
- Peripheral neuropathy. Peripheral neuropathy is when nerves in your hands and feet become damaged, due to chronic illnesses, like diabetes and alcoholism.
- Iron deficiency. Iron deficiency can exacerbate your restless legs syndrome. Patients that experience stomach bleeding, blood in their stools, or heavy menstrual periods are more likely to suffer from iron deficiency and RLS.
- Kidney failure. Kidney failure often leads to iron deficiency with anemia. When your kidneys don’t function properly, blood cells become depleted of iron, which can cause or exacerbate restless legs syndrome.
Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome
As the name implies, restless legs syndrome causes patients to experience an overwhelming urge to move their legs. Other symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:
- Legs becoming restless when trying to sit still or sleep. Typically, RLS episodes occur when you’ve been laying down or sitting for long periods, like in a car, airplane, or movie theater.
- Legs become increasingly restless at night.
- Legs begin to twitch and kick throughout the night during sleep.
- Uncomfortable sensations are only relieved by movements, like jiggling your legs, pacing, walking, or stretching.
Most patients experience uncomfortable symptoms, like discomfort or strange sensations in their legs and feet on both sides of the body. The uncomfortable sensation associated with restless legs syndrome is often described as a crawling, creeping, throbbing, aching, or itching sensation. Other times, the sensation is described as a muscle cramp or numb feeling.
Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome
At Emerald Sleep Disorder Center, we will ask you a series of diagnostic questions, while ruling out other conditions that could be contributing to your RLS symptoms. Typically, your diagnosis will be based on your family history, medication use, medical conditions, or experiences with daytime sleepiness.
At-Home Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome
Is your restless leg syndrome causing insomnia, stress, muscle cramps, or anxiety? At Emerald Sleep Disorders Center, we will treat your RLS using a variety of techniques, so you can get a better night’s rest.
While there is no permanent cure for restless legs syndrome, we can treat the negative symptoms. To treat your restless legs syndrome symptoms, we will recommend behavioral counseling and medication.
Like most sleep disorders, RLS can be induced by caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Decreasing your intake of these substances can be helpful in reducing episodes. It’s also important to make lifestyle changes, like beginning a regular exercise program to wear your legs out before sleep.
Other measures you can take to minimize discomfort from RLS include:
- Leg massages
- Hot baths with Epsom salt
- Hot and cold therapy with ice packs or heating pads
- Promoting good sleeping habits by trying to not sleep too much during the day, making sure that your mattress it the proper amount of firmness, and setting strict sleeping schedules
Medical Treatments for RLS
Depending on the severity of your restless legs syndrome, we have a variety of techniques to alleviate your symptoms, including foot wrap treatments. We also might recommend varicose vein treatments through another specialist.
“Foot Wrap Treatments” entail wrapping your feet before sleep with a foot wrap that is designed for RLS. The wrap applies pressure to the foot muscles and sends signals to the brain to relax the muscles.
The majority of patients with restless legs syndrome find pain relief after treating their varicose veins. Varicose veins are created when unhealthy valves form in the veins. Treating varicose veins through a specialist is easy, usually requiring no surgery and minimal recovery.
Medication for Restless Legs Syndrome
For immediate relief from your restless legs syndrome, medication can help. Medications can minimize symptoms, but it’s important to be aware of their side effects, and know that they may lose effectiveness over time.
At Emerald Sleep Disorder Center, our experienced physician, Dr. Dainis Irbe is trained in neurology and sleep medicine, so he can make the right medication recommendations based on your health history. Common medications used for restless legs syndrome, include:
- Dopaminergic drugs, which react with the levels of dopamine in your brain. These are often used for moderate and severe forms of RLS.
- Benzodiazepines can sometimes be used to induce sleep.
- For patients with severe pain, we might recommend narcotic pain relievers.
- Anticonvulsants or anti-seizure drugs.
Treating your restless legs syndrome is fairly straightforward, yet important. When left untreated, restless legs syndrome can lead to larger problems, like insomnia, depression, and sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation and intense daytime drowsiness can be incredibly dangerous, leading to a higher risk of getting into accidents and hurting your overall quality of life.
Seeing a Sleep Specialist for Restless Legs Syndrome
Are you ready for relief from your sleep disorders? Not only will we treat your sleep disorder, we will also look for underlying causes of your restless legs syndrome, like iron deficiency, kidney failure, or other disorders, so we can treat the root of the problem. The specialists at Emerald Sleep Disorders Center will diagnose and treat your sleep disorder for a more comfortable life. Call Emerald Sleep Disorders Center today for relief today at 541-683-3325.