“Restless leg syndrome is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that causes an urge to move the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it is also considered a sleeping disorder.” – WebMD
“My legs aren’t supposed to do that.”
Restless leg syndrome, or RLS, is a medical condition wherein someone feels an urge to move their legs.
It is estimated that approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population is affected by RLS. There is no at-risk demographic, though the condition is slightly more widespread in women than men.
Similar to many complex medical conditions, RLS is commonly misdiagnosed or – even worse – ignored by physicians. Mild symptoms of RLS are often treated as an anxiety disorder, which is a bad thing.
Though a minority of anxiety (and depression) patients report RLS-like symptoms, the proposed treatment (which generally includes anti-anxiety or antidepressant meds) is an egregious error. Especially since such medications are potent and addictive, among other reasons.
(Personal note: this writer underwent life-threatening brain surgery in September of 2012. I was not triaged correctly; that is, my symptoms were pretty much ignored until I demanded to see a physician. MRI scans revealed a large brain abscess, and I immediately transferred to a neurosurgical facility. I’ve witnessed, firsthand, the dangers of entrusting your life to someone who may or may not be qualified.)
Understanding how we feel is up to us
Understanding your own symptoms and feelings greatly assists, if not trumps, those of medical experts in certain circumstances. Though doctors are often highly educated and bright, nobody can possibly understand many of the nuances going on in your body and brain.
It behooves us to do two things: (1) write down any and all symptoms; don’t worry about what’s real and not. (2) Explain clearly (again, writing it down if needed) what’s going on with you. With this information in-hand, you’re ready to see the professional of your choosing.
Getting back to RLS
RLS, while it may seem like a relatively simple condition, is anything but. Misdiagnosis (like what this writer experienced) is potentially very dangerous. Prescription drugs (such as anxiety/depression meds) that alter your brain’s chemistry is something to take very seriously.
Thus, we’re going to take a look at seven of the most common signs of RLS. We hope this information proves both useful and beneficial to those who may be suffering from the condition.
7 Signs of Restless Leg Syndrome
1. An “irresistible” urge to move your legs
Of all signs, this is perhaps the most important. Though anxiety and depression may provoke a “nervous twitch,” someone with RLS continuously moves their legs to relieve the discomfort.
If you’re always feeling an insuppressible urge to move your legs, it most likely is NOT an anxiety/depression disorder.
2. Sleep deprivation
Molly McGarvey, now 62, explains her battle with RLS-related sleep deprivation:
“During my early 40s, I could not sleep through the night for about four years. I still wonder how I managed to make it to work and function. I’d come home from work, fall asleep on the couch, get up to go to bed, and then would be up all night.”
Sadly, McGarvey’s marriage ended due to her condition. She explained the reason for her divorce as…
3. Edginess and irritability due to RLS symptoms
That’s right, this woman’s marriage ended because of RLS. It was then that she couldn’t deal with the chaos her condition was causing.
After visiting a sleep clinic, she was diagnosed with RLS. After receiving the appropriate medication, her symptoms began to improve dramatically. “I remember waking up the next morning, having slept an entire night and couldn’t believe I actually rested.”
4. Severe morning fatigue
Morning fatigue is too often a direct result of poor sleep quality. When you’re only able to get about 1-2 hours of actual sleep, it’s inevitable that you’ll wake up tired.
Of course, this fatigue is felt throughout the workday, which makes it literally impossible to perform even the most routine of tasks correctly. RLS sufferers feel this way because the human brain can not function to even a portion of its capabilities without adequate rest.
5. Trying to “calm your legs down.”
Julie Vaughn, 49, went through three doctors before finally receiving the correct diagnosis. Mrs. Vaughn, via her intuition, knew her RLS was related to back injury; yet, her pleas went largely ignored. Finally, she had enough.
“After listening to me jabbering about my back problem, a neurologist performed a blood test that detected extremely low levels of (vitamin) B12 and iron: the most common cause of RLS.”
You’d think one of three physicians would know the most common cause of a widespread condition, yeah? Apparently not.
6. Trying to coax your body into sleep
Donna McLellan, fearing she’d be judged due to her condition, remained silent for over 20 years. She took prescribed medications for her chronic migraines, which only made her RLS worse. Her story is eye-opening.
“That’s when (after days of not sleeping) I was up at three in the morning, riding my exercise bike, running up and down the stairs, or outside walking up and down the road.”