Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an urge to move the legs or arms in response to uncomfortable feelings like creeping, tingling, burning, and itching. The diagnosis of this sensorimotor, neurological sleep disorder is primarily based on the patient’s self-report and history. He or she experiences worse sensations at rest and at night and attempts to relieve them with frequent movement. However, in extreme cases, individuals may find no relief from the symptoms even with repeated movement.
RLS can sometimes be confused with simpler explanations. These include leg cramps, positional discomfort, arthritis, leg edema, myalgia, and habitual foot tapping. Additionally, muscle cramps, joint limitation, and other physical abnormalities do not point to RLS.
Criteria Used for Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome DSM-5 333.94 (G25.81)
It is important an individual pays close attention to their symptoms so they can be compared with the diagnostic criteria as outlined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5). Again, their self-report will be the primary determination of the syndrome. The following should exist in order to make a diagnosis:
Due to uncomfortable feelings in the legs, the patient has a strong urge to move them; this urge is characterized by all of the following:
- The urge begins or worsens when the individual is at rest.
- It is relieved by movement.
- The urge is worse in the evening/at night or only occurs in the latter part of the day.
- The above symptoms repeat at least three times each week and have lasted for at least three months.
- The patient experiences significant distress in their life due to the symptoms
- The symptoms are not due to another mental disorder or condition, such as arthritis or positional discomfort
- The symptoms are not due to physiological effects from a medication or harmful drug.
An RLS diagnosis can also be supported by a few other features: periodic leg movements in sleep (PLMS), as up to 90% of people with RLS demonstrate PLMS; periodic leg movements while the individual is awake; and reports of sleep fragmentation or daytime sleepiness.
Who is at Risk of Developing Restless Leg Syndrome DSM-5 333.94 (G25.81)?
There are some gender-related, genetic, and physiological factors that can play in here. According to DSM-5, RLS is more prevalent in females, and even more so when they’re pregnant—it solidifies in the third trimester, but typically resolves soon after delivery of the baby. RLS also has a strong familial component, so if you know of a relative or two who suffer from RLS, you may have genetic susceptibility.
Course and Development of Restless Legs Syndrome DSM-5 333.94 (G25.81)
In non-familial cases, individuals typically begin to notice symptoms of RLS before the age of 20, some even experiencing them before the age of 10. The prevalence rate continues to increase with age until about 60 years—the symptoms then remain stable or begin to decrease. Contrastingly, in familial RLS, symptoms typically develop at a younger age and progress more slowly.
Because diagnosis of RLS relies primarily on self-report, it can often be difficult to make a diagnosis in children. They may know they’re experiencing uncomfortable sensations but trying to vocalize those feelings can be a challenge; for example, young children don’t typically use the word “urge”, instead saying more simply that their legs have to move. Additionally, two-thirds of children and youths report experiencing daytime leg sensations, which may be attributed to say, sitting in a desk for a long period of time.
Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome
Those who suffer with RLS can take a few different routes or a combination of them to find some relief and ease their discomfort:
- Individuals should try to follow a normal sleep schedule, exercise regularly, and stretch consistently.
- Individuals can try taking vitamins, as sometimes deficiencies in iron or magnesium can cause RLS.
- Individuals may also be prescribed medication by their doctor, as muscle relaxants and sleep aids sometimes help.
- Individuals should avoid potential triggers, which include drinking coffee or alcohol, smoking, and sitting in the same position for too long.
Get Those Restless Legs Moving
As we discussed, these uncomfortable sensations and urges occur more frequently during times of rest. So, here are a few fun ways to get those legs into motion and hopefully far from any negative feelings like tingling, itching, and burning:
- Spend some quality time with your pup. Get into the habit of taking them to the park or checking out a new trail—you’ll get your legs moving on a consistent basis and a very happy, healthy pup.
- Find a sport you enjoy. Almost every sport requires some solid movement, whether it be soccer, basketball, tennis, or volleyball. Just find one you like and it will provide you with some exercise as well as enjoyment.
- Go on an adventure. This could mean going on a hike, trying out something new and riveting like rock-climbing, or simply taking a stroll through a new part of town. The point is to get your muscles moving and to have fun while doing it.