Restless leg syndrome plagues one in ten Americans. Women are twice as likely to experience it as men, and a person’s risk for restless leg syndrome increases with certain factors such as age and pregnancy. Restless leg syndrome can be stressful, and it can interrupt your ability to sleep. We believe that issues affecting your quality of life deserve medical attention.
What Is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by the insatiable desire to constantly move your legs, especially during the evening hours. It can impact your quality of life and cause difficulty when paired with other conditions. It’s technically a sleep disorder, and it’s also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease.
You can experience either primary or secondary RLS. Primary restless leg syndrome means there is no other apparent cause of the RLS. Secondary means that it is associated with another condition, such as another sleep disorder, arthritis, or other autoimmune diseases.
There is growing evidence to suggest that RLS may be related to varicose veins and other venous diseases. Varicose veins occur when valves in the veins don’t function properly and allow blood to flow backwards. This results in pooling of the blood which leads to pain, itching, and a sense of heaviness. With such similar symptoms, it is highly likely that varicose veins and RLS are linked. Often, treating one problem will help alleviate the discomfort of both disorders.
How Do You Know If You Have Restless Leg Syndrome?
Only a doctor can diagnose you with RLS, but if you experience that restlessness at night, and if your itchiness goes away when you move your legs, it’s a likely culprit. Doctors look at the following criteria when they consider a restless leg syndrome diagnosis:
- Movement stops the annoying discomfort, but it resumes as soon as you stop moving your legs
- The symptoms seem to begin when you rest or prepare to sleep
- An intense desire to move
- Few or no symptoms in the morning, but persistent symptoms at night
Your doctor may prescribe a sleep study to rule out other conditions or complications. Diagnosis is a bit more difficult in children, as doctors sometimes lean towards an ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) diagnosis in young patients.
Additionally, you may exhibit any of the symptoms of sleeplessness, such as irritability and inability to concentrate. RLS can significantly affect school or work performance and can negatively impact your personal and professional relationships.
Pregnancy and Restless Leg Syndrome
Have you experienced a tingling sensation in your legs during your pregnancy? What about a feeling akin to bugs crawling all over it? These are potential indications of restless leg syndrome. RLS pregnancy symptoms can also include an extreme need to move the legs. On top of other pregnancy symptoms like morning sickness and heartburn, the last thing you want to have to deal with is a desire to move your legs, especially in the later months.
This can happen as a result of iron deficiency, a shift in hormones during pregnancy, and your genetics. In many cases, RLS doesn’t activate until the changes in your body that come along with pregnancy.
What’s your outlook, if restless leg syndrome pregnancy symptoms persist? For most women, they go away after three months.
You can prevent restless leg syndrome during pregnancy if you:
- Begin your pregnancy at a healthy weight
- Ingest folic acid and other prenatal supplements as advised by your doctor
- Consider vitamins D, E, B12, and calcium upon your doctor’s agreement
- Get into a massage routine, and ask your partner or family member for a light massage before bed
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce stress
Unfortunately, many common restless leg syndrome medications are counter-indicated for pregnancy. This means you should expect your doctor to go heavier on the vitamin and relaxation recommendations to avoid complications with your pregnancy. If you’re ever unreasonably uncomfortable during your pregnancy, you should speak up and notify your doctor immediately.
Restless Leg Syndrome Home Remedies
If your restless leg syndrome is caused by vitamin D deficiency, especially during pregnancy, it’s possible to mitigate via over the counter vitamin D supplements. However, you should not alter your regimen without checking with your doctor. If you’re pregnant, make sure you consult your OB/GYN if you consider any changes, even if it just means adding vitamins.
You can consider the following restless leg syndrome home remedies:
- Easily identify and eliminate causes, such as iron deficiency or new medication. Think about the lifestyle changes you’ve made recently, as well as your stress level. Have these things changed?
- Reduce caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol intake. These are known to make RLS worse, and since your doctor may tell you to start here anyway, you can save yourself some money by trying this first. Additionally, if you’re pregnant, these substances are directly harmful to your child and you’ll want to avoid or cease use of them immediately.
- Look closely at your medications. Did you know that even Benadryl can cause RLS? Don’t forget to consider those over the counter drugs. Tramadol, lithium, levothyroxine, SSRIs, and antipsychotic drugs.
- Many RLS sufferers report that tight clothing and increased sugar intake worsens their symptoms. Try avoiding that to see if your symptoms are relieved.
- Improve sleep habits. Whatever you can do to improve your sleep habits can help, whether it means heading to bed at the same time each night, creating a healthier sleep environment, or adjusting your pillow so you can breathe better.
- Alternating hot and cold treatments, such as hot water bottle and ice compress applications.
- TENS unit treatments. Icy Hot brand sells these over the counter now.
- Yoga, stretches, and light exercises during the day.
Medications for Restless Leg Syndrome
If you and your doctor choose to pursue medication to help with restless leg syndrome, you may have the following options:
- Anti-seizure drugs, such as gabapentin. This is usually where doctors begin when they’re prescribing medication for RLS. This medication can also make you dizzy and sleepy (though sleepy could be a desired side effect), so it’s important to monitor yourself for these additional symptoms.
- Klonopin can help you sleep, though it’s considered a more drastic medication to prescribe for RLS.
- Opioids can help, but due to the opioid epidemic, don’t expect this to be a first choice for your doctor.
What if Home Remedies and Medication Don’t Work?
It might be time to take a different route, such as inspecting your varicose veins. In some cases, patients report relief after varicose vein procedures.
Get Help With Restless Leg Syndrome
Are you experiencing RLS symptoms? Are you curious about restless leg syndrome home remedies and medications for restless leg syndrome? At Metro Vein Clinic, we’re here to help. Give us a call at 612.789.8346 to schedule a consultation with one of our doctors.