Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. It’s a disorder that creates an intensely uncomfortable leg sensation, causing you to feel an overwhelming need to move your legs. Up to 10 percent of Americans have RLS. Women are more likely to suffer from this condition than men.
If you’re experiencing RLS, you might feel extreme sleepiness during the daytime, affecting your work, mood, and relationships. You might find it challenging to sleep at night even though you’re exhausted. RLS can cause an unfortunate cycle of excessive drowsiness and an inability to sleep, even leading to depression.
Fortunately, Dr. Eric Mai at STL Vein & Cosmetics in St. Louis, Missouri, is an expert in diagnosing and treating RLS. In this post, you’ll learn one potential cause of RLS symptoms that you should be aware of, as well as how to find relief.
What could be causing your RLS?
Chronic venous insufficiency (CVI) is an often-unrecognized cause of RLS. Treating vein disease can ease restless legs caused by venous insufficiency.
Vein disorders aren’t always visible, so Dr. Mai uses modern diagnostic techniques and tools to determine the cause and severity of the disease. He may recommend additional tests, such as diagnostic ultrasound, based on your screening results. There is hope if you have restless legs because of underlying vein disease.
Finding relief from RLS
Some RLS sufferers may benefit from medication. Underlying medical conditions may also be the root cause of RLS. Modifying your lifestyle can help mitigate symptoms to a certain extent.
RLS symptoms may decrease with exercise. Simple activities like yoga, pilates, and swimming can help you manage discomfort. While high-intensity cardio isn’t recommended (especially near bedtime), experts agree that 30-60 minutes of gentle stretching and movement each day can combat RLS symptoms.
Avoid exercise routines that cause joint pain, as they may exacerbate your RLS. Conversely, excessive energy bursts and long periods of inactivity can worsen symptoms.
Check your medicine cabinet
RLS symptoms may worsen by taking certain medications. These include:
- Antinausea drugs (Reglan, Compro)
- Antipsychotics (Haldol, Zyprexa)
- Antihistamines (Benadryl)
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) (Prozac, Zoloft)
- Escitalopram (Lexapro)
- Tramadol (Ultram)
- Lithium (Lithobid)
- Tricyclic antidepressants (Elavil, Asendin)
- Levothyroxine (Levoxyl)
Make sure to tell Dr. Mai about any over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription drugs you’re taking, especially any of the medications listed above.
Tobacco, alcohol, and even caffeine can increase RLS discomfort. If you’re a smoker, it might be time to kick the habit. Avoid alcoholic beverages, and refrain from eating or drinking foods and drinks containing caffeine. Making these small but important lifestyle changes can significantly reduce RLS symptoms.
Everyone should practice good sleep hygiene. Those with RLS can especially feel the benefits of healthy sleep habits.
For a restful and restorative sleep, try the following:
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
- Sleep in a dark, cool, and quiet area
- Limit distractions like phones and TV
- Avoid screen time two or three hours before bed
You may not notice a decrease in symptoms with proper sleep hygiene, but it can offset the sleep loss you’re currently enduring.
Several studies show that iron deficiency is a primary cause of RLS. People with a history of heavy menstrual bleeding, occult gastrointestinal bleeding, or donating blood often have iron deficiency.
A lack of vitamins C, D, and E have also been linked to RLS. Vitamin and iron supplements can ease RLS pain and discomfort. Dr. Mai and his team at STL Vein & Cosmetics can diagnose and treat vitamin deficiencies to ease RLS symptoms.
Find relief today
RLS causes pain and discomfort, leading to sleep deprivation and depression. Contact our specialists online or by phone for a consultation to find lasting relief for RLS.