Restless Legs Syndrome

Doctor, if you can't help me, I'm goin to cut off my legs.

 

Worms crawl under my skin if I don't keep moving my legs.

 

My legs decide they want to run, and I have to follow.

 

After I get in bed, a gremlin grabs my legs and leads me around like a puppet.

 

These statements may sound bizarre or unbelievable to someone who has not experienced restless legs syndrome (RLS), but the feelings are all too real to someone afflicted with restless legs. This disorder, which often appears in otherwise healthy people, is not related to emotional or psychiatric disorders. Although it affect primarily the legs, as the name suggests, it can also affect the arms.

People experience restless legs in many different ways, but all describe very unpleasant "creepy, crawly" sensations that occur in the legs when they are sitting or lying still, especially at bedtime. For some people, RLS is very painful, bu the pain is not like that of a leg cramp. RLS is also differnt from the feeling of a limb having "fallen asleep" when the blood supply is cut off, and from the "pins and needlse" or burning sensation sometimes experienced by diabetics. The pain and unpleasant feelings of RLS appear most often in the calves, and can be temporarily relieved by stretching and moving the legs.

If you suffer from restless legs syndrome, you will find that it occurs primarily when you are awake, but that it can also affect your ability to sleep. The constant need to stretch or move the legs to get rid of the uncomfortable or painful feelings often prevents a person with RLS from falling asleep. Extreme tiredness during the day can be one result, with the inability to participate in normal activities or carry out regular duties.

The sleepiness that results from a restless night is not the only daytime problem. During the day, RLS can limit your activities by interfering with the length of time you are able to travel by car, airplane, or any other kind of transportation that requires you to sit still for long periods of time. RLS can disturb your enjoyment of movies or concerts, and limit your participation in business meetings. The sleep loss and disturbance of daytime activities can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression.