Published in the Lynn Haven Ledger, August 2011
Restless Legs Syndrome: Everything you need to know from symptoms to soap Article by: Jennifer Clark, PA-C, MPAS
o you ever complain of an uncontrollable urge to move your legs? Or perhaps you feel what may be described as a gnawing, or pulling, maybe even a creepy, crawly sensation in your legs that seems to happen when you rest? Does it seem to improve with movement? If so, you may be suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a condition affecting 1 in 10 Americans. Many people suffer from these symptoms but don’t realize that it is in fact a known medical condition. There is a significant amount of research out there looking for the cause of this condition, and it has not been nailed down to one particular cause. It has been found to run in families, and seems to affect women more than men, especially during pregnancy. There is thought that it is also due to an imbalance of a substance called dopamine, which is a chemical that is responsible for transmitting signals between the nerve cells in the brain. Anemia and low iron levels can also make these symptoms worse. Certain medications such as antihistamines, calcium channel blockers (used to treat high blood pressure and heart disease), and antidepressants can also provoke the symptoms. Interestingly, research has also found that a large number of patients who suffer from RLS have an underlying venous disease such as venous insufficiency where the valves in the veins are not working correctly. The patients that seem to be impacted the most by both conditions are very similar: women, individuals over 50 years old, people who have standing professions, obese individuals, and those with a family history of the condition. In our practice we have found that 8085% of the patients that complained of symptoms of RLS improved significantly after treatment of their venous disease. By meeting with your primary care provider and discussing your symptoms he or she can review your symptoms, medications and lifestyle habits to help make the diagnosis and search for a possible underlying cause. Simple blood work can determine if you have conditions such as anemia or iron deficiency. Treatment for RLS ranges from treating the underlying cause, lifestyle changes, to medications and even surgical intervention to correct venous insufficiency. Here are some lifestyle changes you can try to help alleviate your symptoms:
• Keep a regular sleep schedule. • Fatigue often makes symptoms of RLS worse. Try to go to bed and wake up the same times
during the day to help your body get into a routine. Also avoid falling asleep with the television or lights on. • Compression hose • Wearing during the day when you are on your feet can help improve your symptoms, especially if you have underlying venous disease • Exercise in moderation • By maintaining aerobic fitness symptoms often improve, however intense or extensive training such as running a marathon can sometimes provoke symptoms Article continued on the back
• Stop smoking and drinking alcohol • Cut back on caffeine • Take a multivitamin • Often deficiencies in magnesium, iron, folic acid, and vitamin B can cause symptoms of RLS • Weight loss • Yoga Lastly, I would like to leave with you with an anecdotal remedy. I will forewarn you, as I do with all of my patients I tell this to in clinic, that it may sound ridiculous! Are you ready? Place a bar of colored soap at the foot of your bed underneath your fitted sheet. Some people have even placed a small bar of soap, similar to the size you find in hotel rooms, in each sock when they sleep. It is not known how or why this works, but we have found that 70-80% of our patients that try it notice significant improvement of their symptoms. I always say, as silly as it sounds, it is certainly worth the cost of a bar of soap to try!