The symptoms of RLS include an uncomfortable sensation in the legs, typically the legs, but also sometimes the torso and the arms and the sensations vary from patient to patient, but they can include feelings of itchy, achy, creepy crawly discomfort that may occur.
It's appropriate to see a doctor about restless leg syndrome when it occurs frequently and really disrupt sleep, it can make it very difficult to fall asleep. Since restless leg syndrome occurs more in the evening hours, it can push bedtime back from 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock, midnight, one, two, 3:00 AM. For some patients, if it's getting in the way of one's life, affecting the quality of their life, making it hard to fall asleep at night, then it's definitely appropriate to seek medical attention.
"Often patients come to me complaining that they can't fall asleep at night and they think it's insomnia, which it is in a way cause they can't fall asleep. But the real reason may be that their legs bother them. So on a simple sleep symptom questionnaire, I asked variety of questions. Most that their own doctors have never asked. And one of those is about their legs. And when they tell me that they have some uncomfortable sensation that tends to occur in the evenings and is associated with the urge to move, that's relieved by rest, I can make the diagnosis of restless leg syndrome. So it prevents people from falling asleep and it gets in the way of the quality of their sleep. But the diagnosis is fairly simple. It's a clinical diagnosis. They tell me their symptoms and I give them the diagnosis. But what we always want to do is figure out if there's some reversible costs for it. So invariably, I'm gonna order some labs. I'll look at their kidney function. I'll look at their risk for anemia to make sure their red cell count is not low. I always measure ferritin, which is a measurement of iron and some blood chemistries and some minerals that help relax muscles like magnesium and calcium. We also look at thyroid function. So we're simply looking at a simple group of labs that give us a lot of information. I love to see a low iron value because it's so easy to fix cheap over the counter. Iron will actually treat a big group of people about 20% of restless legs or RLS is just low iron. Interestingly, about 75% of people with RLS actually have high iron. So it can be a confusing diagnosis to make for an untrained professional who doesn't see this every day, but labs are always important in making the diagnosis. But at the end of the day, it's a clinical diagnosis."
"The diagnosis of RLS, if it bothers somebody, is easy to make and probably close to a hundred percent, sometimes you would get confused because other things can mimic RLS such as peripheral neuropathy. Cause that's also considered pins and needles in the legs and feet that disturb people more at rest and at night time. So for some diseases, we have to tease them out for what the real problem is. But typically since restless leg syndrome, like any disease is on a spectrum. Sometimes symptoms are very mild and they don't bother the patient. And so it's not really brought to anybody's attention and they can live with it. On the other hand, sometimes it's really severe and those are the patients that I see in my office, but the diagnosis is more commonly known about and more publicly known about. And now the restless legs foundation has made itself very public there's good resources on the internet TV commercials, advertising pharmaceutical agents have actually made it more common. Generally I don't like commercials prescribing drugs to patients, but in this particular case, a lot of people have come out of the woodwork and said, Oh gosh, this is a problem that I've had my entire life. My family has it. I didn't actually know it had a diagnosis. So the public awareness is great, but mild symptoms don't need to be treated and severe symptoms invariably show up in a doctor's office because they really can bother a person. But again, restless legs is unusual in that certain times of our lives, it may be worse. And then after the pregnancy or after the medication is withdrawn, it goes away. So sometimes people will have a lifelong history and other times it just may be when a woman's pregnant once or twice or three times with her child. And that's the only time it bothers your life. Treatment there is easy, have a healthy baby and so long to RLS."