Restless leg syndrome is a condition that affects many people. It’s common in people with nerve issues, pregnant people, and those with certain chromosome abnormalities. People who suffer from restless leg syndrome often complain about an uncomfortable sensation in the legs and feet, causing them to find relief only in constantly moving their legs. People with this condition often describe the uncomfortable sensation as crawling, pulling, throbbing, aching, feeling like electricity, and itching. RLS symptoms regularly worsen at nighttime and whenever the legs are at rest, such as when someone is lying down or sitting for extended periods. Movement temporarily relieves the symptoms experienced. Here are what are believed to be the causes of restless leg syndrome, although there is no exact known cause.
RLS is known to run in families. Typically, if the condition is caused by genetics, it will appear before the sufferer is 40 years old. Symptoms tend to worsen as people age and can start at any point in life, but it’s more common to develop RLS past the age of 50 years. Some researches were able to identify an abnormality in chromosomes in patients with RLS. Because of this, it’s sometimes thought to be a hereditary condition.
RLS happens when the brain experiences an imbalance of dopamine, which is the chemical used to give the brain signals and messages that control muscle movements. When this is the cause, many doctors recommend adding supplemental dopamine with daily pills.
Having one or more of the risk factors
RLS comes with a few risk factors. If a person does not have RLS, these indicate that they may develop it, or if a person already has RLS, their symptoms could be worsened by these risk factors:
- Peripheral neuropathy: Damage to the nerves in hands and feet can lead to or worsen existing RLS
- Iron deficiency: Even a slight iron deficiency can lead to or worsen RLS. Taking iron supplements and changing one’s diet can solve RLS if it’s the only underlying cause
- Spinal cord damage: Any damage at all to the spinal cord, including anesthesia to the spinal cord, lesions, and more, have all been linked to RLS
- Pregnancy: Pregnancy can cause RLS. The symptoms typically are not permanent and subside entirely after birth
RLS doesn’t lead to any serious health conditions, but it still can negatively impact lives. Because symptoms are common at nighttime and while laying down, the sleep patterns of those with RLS are often thrown off, which can lead to increased difficulty doing daytime tasks. If you suffer from or are concerned you may suffer from RLS, contact your doctor. For symptom relief, they may recommend a compression garment such as a compression leotard to keep your legs pressurized and relieve your symptoms—that way, you can get the sleep you need.