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Certain Facts You May Not Realize About Restless Legs Syndrome

If you are afflicted with restless legs syndrome, you are familiar with the torment of sleepless nights. Your partner may complain about your inadvertent kicks during slumber, and you likely awaken numerous times, hindering your ability to achieve adequate rest.

Nevertheless, there is a lack of understanding surrounding this condition for many individuals. Even those who possess knowledge about it can come across surprising and new information. Below are eight pieces of information regarding restless legs syndrome that might be unfamiliar to you.

1. A Correlation With Varicose Veins Exists

Restless legs syndrome impacts 7-10% of the population in the United States. This condition affects both sexes, although women are slightly more inclined to endure it than men.

One explanation for this gender disproportion may be the connection between this disorder and varicose veins, another common issue among females. Many patients who have had varicose veins surgically removed reported a cessation of their RLS symptoms post-surgery.

Both conditions share numerous symptoms, although further research is necessary to determine the exact nature of the association.

2. It Manifests In Two Forms

RLS appears in two variations: primary and secondary. Primary RLS is a neurological disorder that generally arises in midlife, though some individuals may experience symptoms in childhood that progressively worsen over time. The cause of primary RLS remains unknown, although some suggest a familial predisposition to the disorder.

Secondary RLS has a discernible cause, which could stem from nerve damage, anemia, nutrient deficiencies, kidney diseases, or a coexisting condition such as rheumatoid arthritis or Parkinson’s disease.

3. Certain Pharmaceuticals Might Trigger It

If your RLS surfaced after initiating a new medication regimen, it may be prudent to consult with your physician. Specific prescription and over-the-counter medications can induce or exacerbate symptoms, and exploring alternative treatments could provide relief. Particularly, be cautious of the following categories of drugs:

  • Antiemetic drugs – Prochlorperazine and metoclopramide.
  • Antipsychotic medications – Haloperidol or phenothiazine derivatives.
  • Some antidepressants – Be wary of those affecting serotonin, like fluoxetine or sertraline.
  • Older antihistamines – Specifically diphenhydramine.

4. Pregnancy Can Initiate Or Exacerbate Symptoms

If your symptoms commenced upon discovering you are pregnant, you might be experiencing pregnancy-induced RLS. This is among the most prevalent causes of sleep disturbances in women.

Two critical nutrients associated with RLS are folic acid and iron. Pregnancy depletes both, necessitating additional folic acid intake to prevent neural tube defects in infants. Some researchers speculate that increasing estrogen levels during pregnancy could contribute to the development of this condition.

5. A Link With Parkinson’s Disease And RA Exists

Doctors hypothesize that dopamine plays a vital role in RLS, demonstrated by the similarity in drugs used to treat RLS and Parkinson’s disease. However, caution must be exercised in prescribing dopaminergic medications since some may amplify symptoms, causing them to present earlier or in upper limbs.

The precise connection between rheumatoid arthritis and RLS remains unclear. Nonetheless, approximately 30% of RA patients also experience comorbid RLS. Scientists speculate the correlation might be linked to the immune system’s release of cytokines during sleep.

6. Spinal Cord Lesions May Contribute

Nerve damage, including damage to the spinal cord, can provoke RLS. Such lesions may result from trauma, infections, autoimmune diseases, inflammatory illnesses, spinal degeneration, congenital abnormalities, or tumors.

Nerve damage disrupts the communication between the brain and legs, leading to misfires at inappropriate times, compelling movement when rest is necessary.


7. It Could Indicate Kidney Issues

RLS is more prevalent in individuals with chronic kidney disease, especially in those undergoing hemodialysis.

Various factors exacerbate symptoms in individuals with kidney disease, including anemia and elevated blood calcium levels, which contribute to the disorder.

8. Augmenting Your Iron Intake May Be Necessary

The most frequently observed environmental factor linked to RLS is iron-deficiency anemia. Conditions such as alcoholism, blood disorders, autoimmune ailments, and poor dietary choices can contribute to this deficiency. Administering iron supplements to iron-deficient patients often results in improvement, solidifying the connection in researchers’ minds.

If you experience symptoms and have difficulty consulting a healthcare provider, attempting self-treatment with an iron supplement might be an option. However, exercise caution, especially when taking them on an empty stomach, as they may induce nausea and vomiting in certain individuals. It is advisable to ingest the tablet with a small quantity of food, while avoiding dairy products that impede absorption.

Things You Might Learn About RLS

Despite being incompletely understood, restless legs syndrome causes considerable distress to many individuals. Armed with newfound knowledge about several aspects you were previously unaware of regarding RLS, you can take steps to prevent or manage it. Consult your healthcare provider and consider an iron supplement.

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