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What Does RLS Feel Like ?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move one’s legs. While the sensation can occur at any time, it tends to get worse in the evening when you’re trying to rest or sleep and can get in the way of a good night’s sleep.

Do I Have RLS?

The first thing to understand about RLS is that it is not simply a feeling of tiredness or fatigue in the legs. People with RLS often describe the sensation as feeling like bugs are crawling under your skin, or like your legs are being mildly electrocuted.

RLS can also manifest as: 

  • Tingling or prickling sensations in the legs 
  • Aching or cramping sensations in the legs 
  • Burning or painful sensations in the legs
  • Muscle spasms and twitching in the legs

RLS can cause significant distress and disrupt a person’s sleep patterns, leading to insomnia, daytime fatigue, and poor concentration. Moving around, stretching, or walking can temporarily relieve the discomfort, but the symptoms will always come back.

Who Is At Risk of Developing RLS?

RLS affects both men and women of all ages. However, the condition is more common in women and generally begins around middle age. While the exact cause of RLS is unknown, several factors may contribute to the development of the condition, including:

  • Pregnancy
  • Diabetes
  • Iron deficiency
  • Renal failure
  • Varicose veins
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Venous insufficiency
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Certain treatment procedures like dialysis
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Peripheral neuropathy

Diagnosis

There is no one test used to diagnose RLS. Instead, diagnosis is based on self-reported symptoms and a physical examination. A doctor may ask questions about your symptom history and perform a physical exam of your legs.

In some cases, additional testing may be necessary to identify the underlying cause of RLS. This may include blood tests, nerve conduction studies, or MRIs.

How Is RLS Treated?

There is no cure for RLS; however, proven treatments can help alleviate the symptoms, including lifestyle changes, medications, and medical devices such as massagers or compression stockings.

Medications used to treat moderate to severe forms of RLS include dopaminergic medications such as levodopa/carbidopa (Sinemet), dopamine agonists such as ropinirole (Requip), and anticonvulsants such as gabapentin (Neurontin).

Lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and avoiding caffeine and alcohol may help ease symptoms of RLS. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat any underlying condition contributing to your symptoms, such as venous insufficiency or varicose veins.

The Takeaway

If you experience an irresistible urge to move your legs accompanied by a creepy-crawly sensation, you may have restless legs syndrome (RLS). While there is no cure for RLS, there are treatments available that can help lessen the symptoms, including lifestyle changes, medical therapies, and surgery.

The best treatment for you will depend on the underlying cause of your symptoms. If you think you may have RLS, talk to your doctor specializing in RLS treatment. They can help you find the best treatment plan to help you get the relief you need.

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