I suffer from a condition called restless legs syndrome. Do you know the cause?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and an associated condition called “periodic limb movements in sleep” (PLMS) are conditions interfering with sleep. They’re sometimes associated with other sleep disturbances. RLS consists of a very unpleasant sensation in the muscles of the legs, often the lower legs, but the thighs or sometimes the arms may be affected, too. It is not really a pain but a sensation that requires one to move the legs to try to get rid of it. But this helps only for a moment or so. The sensation generally occurs when one is trying to go to sleep but may start earlier in the evening before one gets into bed.
About 80 percent of people with RLS also have PLMS, which consists of rhythmic movements of the lower legs and feet each lasting one to five seconds, occurring repetitively. These may or may not awaken the person.
RLS may begin at any age but is more common in older persons and tends to be most severe in middle-aged and elderly people. It can sometimes be associated with a more generalized condition of the nerves, called a polyneuropathy. It can also occasionally follow any condition that pinches the nerves where they exit from the spinal cord, called a radiculopathy. The most common radiculopathy is a pinched nerve caused by a slipped disc.
In most cases of RLS no cause can be found. In about a third of such cases, there is a family history of the condition, suggesting some inherited alteration of the nerves or their metabolism. Neurologic exams and scans usually reveal no abnormalities.
I think that mild versions of RLS exist, since I have had it myself, starting in adolescence and then tapering off as I grew older. I still get it infrequently, usually in the evening before going to bed. It does not interfere with my sleep. Since I have also had a radiculopathy of the legs in recent years, my occasional recurrences of RLS may be related to that. But when I first had it as an adolescent, I had no radiculopathy. Mine has never been troublesome enough to require treatment, but , in severe cases, a variety of drugs can be used to treat the condition. These include clonazepam (related to Valium), carbidopa-levodopa (used for treating Parkinson’s disease), and various opioid pain killers, such as codeine.
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