Treatments for RLS
Before we look at treatment options we should define RLS (Restless Legs Syndrome). RLS is characterized by uncomfortable feelings or pain, usually in the legs. The RLS sufferer usually has an uncontrollable urge to move the legs to relieve the discomfort. These symptoms usually manifest in the evening or at night when the person is at rest. These symptoms can cause disruptions in sleep causing sleep issues. The two most common conditions that have been linked to RLS are anemia and diabetic neuropathy. There are no clear links to any cause, however, so it is important to see your doctor and talk about your symptoms openly. In some cases, RLS is diagnosed in a sleep laboratory when the patient comes in for a sleep study to diagnose a sleep-related issue.
What are the treatment options for RLS?
Home treatments– If your RLS symptoms are not caused by a physical such as anemia or diabetes it may be possible to treat your symptoms at home. You should avoid any foods that make the symptoms worse. In addition, you should avoid alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine. These substances can be a cause of RLS symptoms. Some treatments that may be effective are stretching before bed, hot or cold baths, massaging the area, using a vibrator on the area, doing lower body exercises before bed, or ice packs or hot packs before bed. If none of these work then it’s time to consult your primary care physician or a sleep specialist to treat your symptoms.
See Your Doctor- If none of these seem to help, it’s time to see your doctor. Your doctor can do simple blood tests to see if you are suffering from anemia or have mineral deficiencies that could be contributing to your symptoms. Iron supplements or mineral supplements may be all that is necessary to treat the symptoms. If none of these are the cause it’s possible that you may suffer from an underlying health condition such as diabetes, varicose veins, kidney or thyroid disease, etc. If your doctor identifies any of these you can be treated for the underlying disease and hopefully decrease or relieve your symptoms. Some other things that may cause RLS or make the symptoms worse include prescription medications, stress, lack of sleep and keeping your legs still for long periods of time, as in a long car ride or flying. If you must stay still for long periods, try to take regular breaks to stretch your legs and move around.
If your symptoms are severe, with symptoms three or more nights per week, your doctor may prescribe medication therapy. There are several medicines that can be used to treat the symptoms of RLS. These are usually prescribed to be taken daily.
Although doctors still don’t know the exact cause of RLS, you can treat the symptoms with good results. The main thing is to talk to your doctor and be your own advocate for your health care. With the many treatment options available, you don’t have to live with RLS and the nights of lost sleep it causes.