The sleep doctors of Sleep Medicine Associates of Texas have helped scores of patients who suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS). Restless leg syndrome is a neurosensorimotor disorder that significantly impacts sleep in the first half of the night. People often must stretch, move or walk to provide restless leg relief, resulting in significant disruption to sleep quality. People usually report to the physician that their legs make it difficult to settle so they feel the urge to move their legs which may include an abnormal sensation in the affected limb(s) (sometimes referring to this as a creepy-crawly feeling), the urge is present when still or at rest, movement of the affected limb(s) provides some temporary relief, and the most active symptoms of RLS are present in the evening or during the night.
Diagnosing Restless Leg Syndrome
To assist in the 4 core criteria of diagnosing restless leg syndrome, the acronym URGE has been used: U = Urge to move, R = Rest worsens the urge, G = Gyration (movement) relieves the urge, E = Evening or night worsening of the urge. Under most circumstances the diagnosis of RLS does not require sleep laboratory testing at a sleep study center. RLS can typically be diagnosed by interviewing the patient.
Falling under the same medical umbrella of restless leg syndrome is periodic leg movements of sleep (PLMS). Periodic leg movements of sleep, which differ from RLS, is a rhythmic movement of the lower extremity that is measured during sleep and may or may not have clinical relevance. Periodic movements can also be present during sleep in the arms as well. PLMS predominately occurs during the first half of the night and tends to increase in frequency over each decade of life, with children under ten years of age rarely having PLMS and many adults sixty or older having more than fifteen leg movements per hour of sleep. Although two separate disorders, people with RLS usually have PLMS too and it is quite common, affecting up to 10% of adults. Ongoing research is finding PLMS has cardiovascular consequences, including higher rates of hypertension. There is a monitoring technique which sleep specialists can conduct as part of a sleep study to diagnose or treat RLS and PLMS. It is termed the Suggested Immobilization Test (SIT), and it measures periodic leg movements of wake (PLMW) in the one hour before beginning a polysomnogram, determing the diagnosis of RLS and PLMS.
Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment
Many different treatments have been proposed for RLS and PLMS. Guidelines from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Medical Advisory Board of the RLS Foundation support the use of medication therapy first in most people. The most common medications used for restless leg syndrome treatment include ropinirole (Requip) and pramipexole (Mirapex) as well as the recently approved gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant). Although clonazepam (Klonopin) and opiate/narcotic agents have been used for many years, it is recommended that these potentially addicting agents be closely monitored in restless leg treatment. This restless leg syndrome treatment medication therapy occasionally creates side effects. One such long-term risk is a worsening of RLS symptoms. Being under the care of an experienced board certified sleep doctor at Sleep Medicine Associates of Texas you can help assure that side effects such as RLS and PLMS are caught early and treated effectively.