While studies show that about 7% of the population suffers from restless leg syndrome (RLS), there is still a lot of confusion about this disease. From how it is diagnosed to the medications that are used to treat it, RLS is a condition that is under constant speculation from people who do not understand it. Here are some facts about this disease that will hopefully be able to enlighten the public about this misunderstood condition.
RLS does not mean your legs move involuntarily.
Many people believe that because of the name of the disease, it means that your legs move against your will. However, this is not the case. Rather, restless leg syndrome causes sensations such as itching, tingling, pulling, crawling, and cramping that can only be relieved by moving around.
RLS can begin at any age.
Even though the risk increases as you get older, restless leg syndrome has the potential to affect anyone at any age. However, regardless of when it develops, it is much more likely to affect women than men.
RLS is a neurological disorder.
Though the exact cause for the disease has not yet been determined, researchers have found that it is a result of dopamine levels being disrupted in the brain. This is the chemical that control muscle movements, so when dopamine production is not working normally, muscle function begins to suffer as well.
RLS is closely related to fibromyalgia.
Recent studies have shown that people with fibromyalgia are 11 times more likely to have restless leg syndrome than the general population. Since fibromyalgia is also a neurological condition, researchers are looking to better understand the link between the two.
RLS is more common during pregnancy.
Most likely because of the sharp change in hormone levels during pregnancy, many pregnant women will experience RLS symptoms during their last trimester. However, symptoms will usually disappear soon after giving birth.
RLS symptoms worsen at night.
Restless leg syndrome follows a circadian rhythm, meaning that it will get significantly worse at night as the brain and body are beginning to relax and prepare for sleep. It is believed that this occurs because dopamine is naturally lower at night as the body is entering the sleeping cycle. Also, there are fewer distractions at night, which can make the symptoms even more difficult to ignore.
RLS can lead to other serious conditions because of lack of sleep.
Many people who do not suffer from RLS can have a difficult time comprehending how serious the condition really is. While it may seem trivial from outside perspective, since restless leg syndrome by itself does not have any fatal consequences, the side effects of the condition can be very serious. For example, the biggest concern when you have RLS is getting an adequate amount of sleep. RLS can lead to severe sleep disruptions, which can lead to other health problems such as high blood pressure and erectile dysfunction.