What causes restless legs syndrome?
Usually there isn't a clear reason for restless legs syndrome. The problem often runs in families. Sometimes there is a clear cause, like not getting enough iron. If that's the case, treating the cause may solve the problem.
Women sometimes get restless legs while they are pregnant.
Other problems that are sometimes linked to restless legs syndrome include kidney failure, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, nerve damage, anemia, Parkinson's disease, and withdrawal from opioid medications, such as morphine, oxycodone and heroin. But most people who seek treatment do not have any of these other problems.
How is restless legs syndrome diagnosed?
One of the hardest things about having restless legs syndrome
is getting to the diagnosis. Often doctors don't ask about sleep or don't ask about the symptoms of restless legs. If you're not sleeping well, or if you think you may have restless legs syndrome, tell your doctor.
Your doctor will talk with you about your symptoms to make sure that the feelings you describe are typical of restless legs syndrome
and are not caused by some other problem.
You may have blood tests to rule out other problems that could be causing your symptoms. In some cases, the doctor may order tests of your nerves to be sure there is no nerve damage. Your doctor may also order a sleep study called a polysomnography. This test records how often your legs jerk or move while you sleep.
What is the prognosis for people with restless legs syndrome?
RLS is generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. However, current therapies can control the disorder, minimize symptoms, and increase periods of restful sleep. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age, although the decline may be somewhat faster for individuals who also suffer from an associated medical condition. A diagnosis of RLS does not indicate the onset of another neurological disease, such as Parkinson’s disease. In addition, some individuals have remissions—periods in which symptoms decrease or disappear for days, weeks, months, or years—although symptoms often eventually reappear. If RLS symptoms are mild, do not produce significant daytime discomfort, or do not affect an individual’s ability to fall asleep, the condition does not have to be treated.
If a person cannot manage symptoms of RLS alone, they may be prescribed medications. The medication will depend on the individual. Early research suggests that certain cases of restless leg syndrome may be caused by a magnesium deficiency, and that magnesium supplements
can reduce RLS symptoms. Magnesium is sometimes used as a natural or alternative remedy for RLS, especially when a deficiency is thought to contribute to the condition. Supplementation with iron may help people who have low iron levels. This, in turn, may help improve symptoms. Ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), may help with mild symptoms. Benzodiazepines are sedative medications that help people with persistent and mild symptoms to sleep through the effects of RLS. Restoril, or temazepam, Xanax, or alprazolam, and Klonopin, or clonazepam, are examples.