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What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)? (Part 1 of 3) | HealthiNation

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Restless Legs Syndrome is a very real condition that can cause pain, sleepless nights, frustration, and exhaustion. Dr. Raj explains what happens with RLS. Related Videos: What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)? (Part 1 of 3) | HealthiNation Managing Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) (Part 2 of 3) | HealthiNation True Life Story: Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) (Part 3 of 3) | HealthiNation TRANSCRIPT: What Is Restless Legs Syndrome? Restless Legs Syndrome, or RLS, is characterized by symptoms that can include burning, creeping and tugging sensations felt deep in the leg, usually between the knee and ankle. Despite its name, Restless "Legs" Syndrome, the condition may also affect the arms. There is the same urgent feeling to move, but in this case it occurs between the elbow and wrist. What Happens When Someone Has RLS? RLS will make you want to move, stretch or shake your leg. And, when you do, there is temporary relief. This cycle of symptom and relief can continue for long periods and, in some people, may be very painful. Because movement provides relief, people with RLS may pace the floor, move their legs around while sitting and toss and turn in bed. This can keep you awake at night, and result in major daytime fatigue. Some people experience one or two episodes per week. But in severe cases, patients may make uncontrolled and often continuous movements, even while awake. What Causes RLS? The cause of RLS is unknown. Researchers believe it might be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine. This is the chemical that carries the signals between nerve cells that control body movement. When dopamine levels don't function properly, the communication of these signals is disrupted. Diagnosing RLS Because it's so hard to diagnose (there is no definitive test), your doctor will rely mostly on the way you describe your symptoms. He or she will also ask about your family's medical history, and any medications you might be taking. Also, make note of the frequency, duration and intensity of your symptoms as well as the time of day they're worst and how they affect you on a daily basis. Types of RLS There are two forms of RLS-primary and secondary. Primary sufferers often have family members who've had it too. Secondary RLS has underlying causes such as chronic diseases like kidney failure, diabetes and Parkinson's disease. Risk Factors for RLS RLS can appear at any age. It tends to affect more women than men, partially because some pregnant women experience RLS, especially in their last trimester. Symptoms usually disappear within four weeks after delivery. Sources: Restless Legs Syndrome. Waltham, MA.: UpToDate, 2009. (Accessed October 18, 2009 at Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet. Bethesda, MD.: National Instiute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 2001. (Accessed October 18, 2009 at