Restless legs syndrome
Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, may affect more than 12 million Americans. Because RLS may be under diagnosed or misdiagnosed, some people who experience RLS will not seek medical help, believing that they will not be taken seriously, that symptoms are not severe, or that their condition is not treatable. But what is restless legs syndrome? And what types of RLS do doctors diagnose?
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome can be described as a powerful urge to move the legs accompanied by strange and unpleasant feelings such as creeping, crawling, tingling or burning sensations. During a case of RLS, the legs become uncomfortable while resting or during periods of inactivity, such as sitting or lying down. During RLS, moving makes the legs feel better, but not for long. Cases of restless legs syndrome can range from mild to severe and are based on:
Types of restless legs syndrome
Early onset RLS - One type of RLS usually starts early in life (before age 45) and tends to run in families. It may even start in childhood. Once this type of RLS starts, it usually lasts for the rest of your life. Over time, symptoms slowly get worse and occur more often. If you have a mild case, you may have long periods with no symptoms.
Late onset RLS - Another type of RLS usually starts later in life (after age 45). It generally doesn’t run in families. This type tends to have a more abrupt onset. The symptoms usually don’t get worse with age.
Primary or familial RLS - This type of restless legs syndrome is inherited and passed along genetically to about half of all cases of RLS.
Secondary RLS - This type of RLS appears to be a result of another condition, which, when present, worsens the underlying RLS.
For the most part, restless legs syndrome isn't related to a serious underlying medical problem. However, RLS sometimes accompanies other conditions, such as:
Iron deficiency - Even without anemia, iron deficiency can cause or worsen RLS. If you have a history of bleeding from your stomach or bowels, experience heavy menstrual periods or repeatedly donate blood, you may have iron deficiency.
Kidney failure - If you have kidney failure, you also may have iron deficiency, often with anemia. When kidneys fail to function properly, iron stores in your blood can decrease. This, along with other changes in body chemistry, may cause or worsen RLS.
Peripheral neuropathy - This damage to the nerves in your hands and feet is sometimes due to chronic diseases such as diabetes and alcoholism.
Do you know what can cause RLS? And are you at risk of developing restless legs syndrome? Continue reading here for more information on risk factors and what causes restless legs here.
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