Restless leg syndrome is a condition characterised by an irresistible urge to move one's legs. Discomfort is often worsening by standing or lying still, meaning the patient must move to ameliorate the syndrome. The most common cause of restless leg syndrome is iron deficiency, though it may also be caused by genetic or psychiatric means.
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Symptoms of restless leg syndrome depend on which part of the body it affects, as it may not be confined to the legs. Notwithstanding this, there are numerous hallmark symptoms that have come to typify restless leg syndrome, such as:
By far the most common and characteristic symptom of restless leg syndrome is the urge to move. This urge is almost uncontrollable because the longer the patient remains still, the more likely the urge to move worsens. Patients have immense discomfort remaining still for this reason. There is also a pattern to symptoms, as patients are more likely to suffer restless leg syndrome at night - or it may worsen as the night progresses.
There are numerous causes of restless leg syndrome, the most common of which are listed and described below. These causes include:
The most common cause of restless leg syndrome, by far, is iron deficiency. In addition, those patients with elevated iron stores may also suffer from the syndrome. Genetic factors, too, appear to play a role - with certain gene alterations associated with its manifestation. Also, patients who have ADHD are more likely to suffer from RLS. Certain medications - such as antidepressants, antiemetics and antihistamines - may cause or worsen restless leg syndrome.
Restless leg syndrome is not difficult to diagnose. Doctors can perform various tests to determine whether the patient has this condition. These tests include, but are not limited to:
Patients suspected of having restless leg syndrome will be asked a series of questions, designed to determine a pattern of events. Patients who describe irresistible urges to move (particularly at night) and relief on moving or stretching, will be suspected of having the syndrome. A blood test may also be performed, to determine whether iron levels are now. A blend of these tests help the doctor to determine whether the patient should be diagnosed with restless leg syndrome.
Patients with restless leg syndrome should contact their doctor, particularly if the condition is recurrent. There are numerous mechanisms by which restless leg syndrome may be treated, including:
Patients are frequently advised to stretch legs, as this can provide temporary relief. To prevent restless leg syndrome from recurring, more long-lasting treatments may be required. Patients whose iron levels are low should alter their diet to include iron-rich foods - such as eggs and green leafy vegetables. Medications may also be used, such as pramipexole, cabergoline and ropinirole.
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