Q: What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?
A: It is a condition which causes an unpleasant sensation (itchy, creepy, crawly, aching, ‘pins and needles’) and an irresistible desire to move them in order to reduce this sensation. Symptoms usually occur in late afternoon or evening and are classically worse at night with a distinct symptom free period in early morning. Moving the legs or walking typically gives relief. They can vary and range from mild to intolerable. The condition can significantly impair the quality of life by causing sleep disruption.
Q: What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?
A: Dr Mayank Chawla, Senior Consultant, Neurology, Max Hospital, Gurgaon says, that the cause in most cases is unknown (Primary RLS). It has a genetic component. Dopamine deficiency in one section of the rain that controls movement leads to this condition. It is also associated with other medical conditions like Iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, chronic kidney disease, certain medications, Alcohol, Nicotine, excess caffeine and certain neuropathies.
Q: How is Restless Legs Syndrome diagnosed?
A: No specific test is available and diagnosis is based on clinical criteria. The doctor’s evaluation focuses on individual’s description of symptom, triggers, relieving factors and time of onset. A detailed medical and family history and list of current medications is helpful. Simple lab tests including Iron Studies may be done to rule out associated conditions. In children, the condition may be mistaken for “Growing pains” or “Attention deficit disorder”.
Q: How is Restless Legs Syndrome treated?
A: Lifestyle changes in mild cases may provide relief- avoid alcohol, regular sleep pattern, moderate exercise, warm bath, calf massage, heat/ice pack. Recently a pressure foot trap has been developed that delivers vibration to calf muscles and gives relief. Treating associated conditions especially iron deficiency may also help. Drugs acting on Dopamine pathways are available to be given late in the evening for moderate to severe cases. However, long-term use of drugs can rarely lead to worsening in some cases. Primary RLS is a lifelong condition.