Medical science is just beginning to understand Restless Leg Syndrome, a disorder that affects 7-10 percent of Americans. Far from being a minor inconvenience, it actually can disrupt people’s sleep patterns and impact their job productivity and overall alertness. This is why Accredited Home Care is happy to provide a variety of helpful tips and natural methods to hopefully reduce the frequency and severity of those who do suffer from it in the Irvine area.
Researchers continue to try to understand Restless Leg Syndrome and why it takes place, which can help develop a more universal way of treating it. Because the sensations may originate in the brain, not the leg muscles or the nervous system, it makes studying the phenomenon much more complicated. It’s also something that can stop for months or years but then restart again just as severe. It also differs from person to person.
According to the Mayo Clinic, restless leg syndrome often occurs after someone has been sitting or lying down for an extended period of time. But it also can occur when someone lies down at night for bed.
People report feelings that something in their leg or feet is creeping, crawling, pulling, itching or aching, but a more unusual feeling than standard muscle pains. In some cases, there are actual spasms that can cause jerking or kicking, especially when someone is trying to sleep.
For some, limited relief can be found by getting up and walking around, or at least stretching out the affected leg or pacing for a few minutes. Some people describe the need to move as more of a compulsion.
But the activity is often likely to start again when the person lies down.
Though people with Restless Leg Syndrome rarely report these symptoms in the morning, they are sometimes fatigued from not sleeping well, and are more likely to fall asleep at work or school. And trying to go to bed early the next day to catch up on missed sleep may sometimes trigger another cycle.
When Restless Leg Syndrome may be happening, the first option is to consult a health care provider, describe the symptoms, see if they can be observed, and find out if any medication may be available or useful. There are some pharmaceutical solutions for Restless Leg Syndrome, but currently no uniform dosage or specific type of medication for all sufferers due to the confusing causes and differing reactions.
One option is anti-seizure drugs, including gabapentin encarbil. These are often prescribed to people with other neurological disorders like Parkinson’s. While they are known to reduce nerve pain or muscle activity, side effects can include general fatigue, dizziness and sleep problems.
Some neurologists believe Restless Leg Syndrome may have connections to dopamine, a hormone in the brain that regulates pleasure. Some medications that affect dopamine levels include topinirole, rotigotine or pramipexole, and all are believed to reduce moderate Restless Leg Syndrome. Interestingly, besides similar side effects to anti-seizure drugs, like fatigue, nausea or dizziness, these medications are known to sometimes cause behavioral changes such as an increased interest in gambling or shopping. Some people have reported these medications also shift the time of the sensations showing up from the evening to the afternoon.
Benzodiazepeines are another type of drug that can help improve the sleep cycle, and some types include lorazepam or clonazepam. But an incorrect dosage could cause exhaustion, concentration problems when awake, a tendency to want to keep sleeping, or even aggravate sleep disorders like apnea.
Opioids can also be given to control the pain and sensations, but can have side effects including high rate of addiction and appetite problems.
For Irvine residents unwilling to try medications or unable to find any that provide satisfactory results, there are natural options.
- More iron: Iron deficiency is believed to play a role. Check with a doctor for anemia or excessive bleeding.
- Lifestyle changes: Any substances that influence sleep, such as alcohol, tobacco or caffeine could also impact Restless Leg Syndrome.
- Soaking your legs in warm water can help the muscles relax. A bath or trip to the hot tub before bed could also be generally beneficial. Or, if this doesn’t work, an ice pack may reduce inflammation.
- Massage: Though sometimes the sensations are internal, a massage might help relax the limbs.
- Excercise: Besides stretching out your limbs and building muscles, regular physical activity can also stimulate the brain and produce endorphins.
- More evaluation: A provider may suggest a neurological examination or blood tests to look for possible causes, or solutions to other disorders that may reduce Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms.
In a home health care situation, nurses or other professionals will be interested in learning more about your Restless Leg Syndrome and how and when it shows up. They may be able to provide some suggestions to minimize sensation, or offer some observations about what’s happening to share with your provider at your next check-up. They also might be able to help with any exercises or ways to help you find relief.
To discuss options or suggestions for Restless Leg Syndrome, visit Accredited Home Care.