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What is Restless Legs syndrome?

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Do you sleep through the entire night and still wake up tired in the morning? Does your partner often complain of being kicked by you at night? If so, then you are suffering from one of the most common but least talked about health condition, Restless Legs syndrome (RLS). You might not have heard about this disease, but try mentioning your symptoms to friends or peers,   you’ll find an entire community around you.

This is a neurological condition in which the patient feels uncomfortable on resting, lying down or sitting. There is a distressing crawling and creeping sensation in legs, especially calves. One feels compelled to move legs to make them feel better. As a result, the patient keeps moving and kicking his legs in bed all night leading to exhaustion and fatigue in the morning. Owing to the troubled sleep, patients feel sleepy, fatigued and annoyed all day long. This condition can also affect the arms, face and trunk. Though middle aged group is commonly affected, it is not surprising to see children

Usually this disease runs in families (50%- Primary type).  Apart from genetic origin, there are numerous other factors which play a role (secondary type). First and foremost, iron deficiency should be ruled out. Other common conditions that need to be excluded are diabetes, pregnancy, kidney failure and arthritis. Often, certain medications like anti-histaminics (prescribed for flu and allergy), anti depressants and certain psychiatric drugs (prescribed for bipolar disorder, schizophrenia) also aggravate the uneasiness.

Identification and treatment of the underlying cause like diabetes or anemia relieves the symptoms of RLS. For patients with family history, lifestyle modifications and exercise is the only answer. Iron and folate supplementation may also be of some help. And finally, all patients should curb the intake of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine as they are known to worsen the condition.  There are drugs available in the market, but no ‘one size fits all’ therapy exists for this disease.

So if you or somebody you know experiences any aforementioned symptoms, please do not ignore them and speak to your clinician right away. Early detection can help you deal with it in a better way if not treat it completely.

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