Statistics put out by Florida Hospital show that over five million adults in the U.S. suffer from moderate to severe restless legs syndrome (RLS).
On average, one in 10 adults suffer from this condition, and over one million school-aged children in the country have RLS.
Symptoms include an overwhelming urge to move the legs, and aching, itching, throbbing, and even creeping sensations on the legs at night.
Not many physical tests can be done to properly diagnose this frustrating condition, but there are some highly likely causes that are thought to trigger and aggravate restless legs syndrome.
In an exclusive look below, we explore some of these causes, and go through a few simple ways you can make changes to your lifestyle, to better remedy your symptoms.
From spending time outside to cutting out harmful substances, these tips will undoubtedly help soothe your symptoms.
Scroll down to read more about the causes and treatments for restless legs syndrome, and let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!
It’s tricky to pin down the exact definition and triggers of RLS, but generally, it can be considered as a type of sleep disorder.
It stems from a disorder of the nervous system, and is characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs during sleep, according to WebMD.
Symptoms include intense burning and itching sensations, aching in the legs, and a throbbing and creeping feeling on the legs.
It occurs when a person is resting, relaxing, or sleeping, and normally gets worse as the night goes on. Most people with RLS have trouble falling and staying asleep, and according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the condition often leads to extreme exhaustion and fatigue during the day.
In the worst cases, RLS can lead to impaired memory and even depression.
Though there are no specific tests to diagnose restless legs syndrome, doctors usually observe the symptoms and other possible existing health conditions to determine the severity of RLS.
In many cases, genetics play a role in RLS. According to the NIH, many people with RLS also have family members who suffer from the disorder.
One of the known factors associated with RLS is that of chronic diseases. WebMD states that symptoms of certain medical conditions including Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure, peripheral neuropathy, and diabetes, among others, are known to overlap with symptoms of RLS.
Some medications are known to worsen the symptoms of RLS.
Anti-nausea drugs, antidepressants, allergy medications, and antipsychotic drugs all contain some levels of sedatives and antihistamines, making them prime suspects for affecting the nerves during sleep, according to NIH.
In some cases, RLS symptoms dissipate after patients stop taking these medications — but remember that it’s always crucial to speak with your doctor first, before doing so.
Some women note that they have experienced symptoms of RLS during their pregnancy, particularly during the last trimester, according to NIH.
According to the Journal of Midwifery & Women’s Health, about 26 percent of pregnant women in the country have RLS, starting in the third trimester.
This could be caused by a range of factors, including mineral deficiencies, hormonal changes, or imbalances in their dopamine levels, according to Healthline.
On the bright side, RLS symptoms disappear almost completely within a month after delivery.
RLS can probably also be caused by the lack of sleep, insomnia, or fluctuations in sleep patterns.
According to WebMD, the most natural way to start reversing these symptoms is to sleep on time and to sleep earlier during the night, and to eliminate as many noises and disturbances as possible.
Substances including alcohol and tobacco are also thought to be culprits that may aggravate and even trigger symptoms of RLS.
Doctors advise against the overconsumption of alcohol, in case it might intensify already existing symptoms of the condition.
There are helpful medications to deal with restless legs syndrome, but the truth is, not all drugs are effective for everyone.
Additionally, many medications may start to lose their effectiveness over time. But you can do a variety of things to ease the symptoms.
Start by implementing slight lifestyle changes, including simple exercises, a more regular sleep schedule, and the elimination of alcohol and tobacco.
You can also massage your legs frequently to ease the irritation. WebMD recommends gently massaging your legs to “counter-stimulate” the sensations of RLS, and to always stretch and flex your ankles, calf muscles, and legs before bedtime.
As mentioned briefly earlier, some core nutritional deficiencies may be at the core of certain RLS symptoms.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has found that an iron deficiency may be triggering RLS.
This is because iron helps our bodies produce dopamine, a chemical that helps our brain control our body’s movements.
You can soothe your symptoms by doing various relaxing activities right at home.
Try to get up off your seat and walk and stretch a few times during the day. You can try taking a nice, relaxing bath before going to bed, or other meditative techniques, like yoga or acupressure.
Research shows that people who suffer from RLS benefit enormously from just 30 minutes to an hour’s worth of daily exercise.
They tend to report lower levels of fatigue, and better sleep patterns.
You certainly don’t have to engage in rigorous exercise. Try walking, jogging, yoga, and light aerobics to improve the strength in your legs.