Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Do doctors know what causes restless legs?"
I think my legs are messed up and I might have restless leg syndrome. I can't sit or lay down for long without feeling discomfort in my legs. What might cause this and how can I treat it? Will I have it forever?
Restless legs syndrome is the term used to describe a sensation in which people are driven to be constantly moving their legs when otherwise quietly resting (such as in bed at night). Notably, moving the legs relieves the discomfort and strange sensations. We are not entirely sure what causes restless legs syndrome (RLS), but there are several conditions that have been linked to the disorder, including iron deficiency, end-stage renal disease (likely as a result of multiple electrolyte abnormalities), diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, rheumatic disease, venous insufficiency (where the veins of the legs don't provide adequate blood flow and drainage), and even pregnancy. One of the first steps in evaluating restless legs syndrome is assessing the overall health situation to make sure that appropriate treatment is provided for any underlying condition that might be causing the restless legs. In the case of patients with iron deficiency and RLS, the use of iron supplements can often result in dramatic improvement. In addition, there are several medications that have been used to treat restless legs syndrome, including medications such as ativan, pain medications such as gabapentin or opioids, dopamine agonists such as those used to treat Parkinson's disease, and a medication called pramipexole. The best thing you can do to help treat your symptoms is to see your primary care physician right away. He or she can do a more complete history to determine if you do have RLS. In addition, a history and physical examination will help identify any underlying causes of your symptoms as well as suggest what medications might work best for you. Hopefully your discomfort will be gone before too much longer!
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