Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by four primary features:
- Desire to move in association with unusual or uncomfortable sensations within the legs, usually in the calves.
- Motor restlessness in response to or in an effort to relieve unusual sensations or discomfort, often expressed as a compelling urge to move.
- Symptoms are worse while at rest and may be decreased by voluntary movement.
- Symptoms most frequently occur during the evening or early part of the night
Individuals with restless legs syndrome have difficulty falling and staying asleep. Symptoms increase with age - most people do not seek treatment until middle age or later. Fifty to sixty percent of affected persons report having a close relative with restless legs syndrome. The cause of the disease is unknown.
Diagnosis and Treatment
The syndrome is diagnosed through patient history, medical evaluation, and neurological evaluation. Several classes of medications are used to treat the syndrome, including dopaminergic agents, benzodiazepines, opioids and anticonvulsants. Lifestyle changes such as refraining from alcohol and tobacco use, following a regular sleep routine and regular exercise also may help ameliorate restless legs syndrome. Symptoms also may be temporarily relieved by massage and by applying cold compresses.
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