8 Restless Legs Syndrome Triggers

You want to relax but your legs have other plans. Where does that creepy-crawly feeling come from? It could be iron deficiency, pregnancy or even weak veins. Here’s how to treat these common restless leg symptoms..

Millions of women can’t sit or lie still long enough to take a flight, see a movie, watch their daughter’s dance recital, make love or fall asleep.

Blame restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological sleep and movement disorder that causes painful, crawling sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them.

“For some women, the only solution is to walk all night,” says Mark Buchfuhrer, M.D., an internist and pulmonary specialist at SomnoMedix Sleep Disorders Center in Los Angeles and co-author of Restless Legs Syndrome: Coping with Your Sleepless Nights (Demos Medical Publishing).

Although it’s not known what causes RLS, research suggests it’s related to a dysfunction in the brain’s basal ganglia, a group of nerve cells that use the neurotransmitter dopamine. It transmits brain messages, helps control body movements and alters central nervous system function.

“Dopamine levels are lower at night, which may explain why restless legs syndrome symptoms are worse in the evening,” says Jacci Bainbridge, Pharm.D., president of the RLS Foundation board and a professor of pharmacology and neurology at the University of Colorado, in Denver.

It also strikes during pregnancy.

About 10% of women and 33% of pregnant women have RLS, says Jennifer Hensley, R.N., coordinator of nurse-midwifery and women’s health options at the University of Colorado College of Nursing, in Denver, and a member of the International RLS Study Group.

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