Restless Leg Syndrome: An Overview of Voluntary Movement

For many years, Restless Leg Syndrome was often misdiagnosed as growing pains, a mental disorder or even Attention Deficit Disorder. With symptoms commonly seen as frequent voluntary leg and arm movement, to many in the medical community, Restless Leg Syndrome was often ignored and left untreated. For the sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome, the condition is real and, recently, the medical community has begun to recognize the condition as valid and treatment options have been explored. With no confirmatory diagnostic tools, Restless Leg Syndrome is most commonly diagnosed through subjective complaints by the patient and confirmation, through negative test results, of no other contributing condition.

Restless Leg Syndrome, unlike Periodic Limb Movement Disorder, is voluntary. Patients describe the sensation, in the limbs, as a burning or tugging. This burning and tugging sensation leads to voluntary movement, by the sufferer, of the affected limb in an effort to relieve the annoying sensation. While movement is a relief, it is only a temporary remedy. This contrasts to the Periodic Limb Disorder in that PLMB results in involuntary movement by the sufferer.

With subjective complaints by the patient, the physician, in an effort to confirm a Restless Leg Syndrome diagnosis, may perform a variety of tests. These tests are ordered and completed in an effort to rule out other conditions which may exhibit symptoms similar to Restless Leg Syndrome. Such tests may include blood work to exclude diabetes, anemia or renal dysfunction and diagnostic nerve studies to rule out neuropathy of some other orgin. Additionally, sleep studies may be performed to determine what, if any, impact the Restless Leg Syndrome has on the patient’s ability to sleep.

More often than not, the patient suffering from Restless Leg Syndrome will find the burning and tugging sensation is more common in the legs than in the upper body. The sensation is generally greater in the evening and more common when lying down. For this reason, may sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome will seek treatment when symptoms are at such a level so as to disturb sleep, resulting in fatigue, inability to focus during the day, decreased sex drive and decreased memory.

When positively diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome, and no other underlying condition exists, the physician will generally recommend basic lifestyle changes including the elimination of caffeine, tobacco and alcohol from the diet and daily activities. In addition to lifestyle changes, the physician may recommend an increase in folate, iron and magnesium through vitamin and mineral supplements. When these alternative approaches do not yield the necessary results, the physician may begin a medical treatment program involving the use of medications commonly used to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Known as dopaminergics, these medications work to reduce the level of symptoms but are not successful in every case. In cases with continued Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms, the physician will modify the prescription options available.

For sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome, the key to recovery lies in the confirmation of the diagnosis. Often underdiagnosed, many Restless Leg Syndrome sufferers do not seek out the treatment so desperately needed to improve the quality of life until symptoms are severe enough to inhibit daily living and impair job performance. When consulting a physician, regarding Restless Leg Syndrome, request a variety of diagnostic studies to rule out other complicating conditions. If results are negative, follow dietary modifications, increase vitamin and mineral supplements and discuss the use of dopaminergics with the physician. By doing so, the fatigue, decreased sex drive and decreased concentration and memory, associated with Restless Leg Syndrome, will be improved and a full night of sleep will be restored.

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