Restless Legs Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritis

Restless Legs Syndrome is more common in people with arthritis. Creepy-crawly, throbbing, and itchy are the words usually used to describe the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. This condition causes such uncomfortable sensations in your legs that you have to move them. The irresistible need to stretch your legs gives temporary relief. Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome usually occur in the evening or nighttime hours when you’re resting or lying in bed, which can make it tough to stay or fall asleep.

What Could Cause Restless Legs in People with Arthritis?

In most cases, there’s no known cause for Restless Legs Syndrome. Several pieces of evidence advise that an imbalance of the brain chemical dopamine, which is required to create smooth and purposeful muscle movement, may lead to Restless Legs Syndrome. If there’s a disturbance in these pathways, it can result in involuntary movements. Heredity may also be a factor, mainly if the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome start before age 40. In some cases, iron deficiency, even without anemia, might cause or worsen Restless Legs Syndrome. This type of condition also seems to be related to other conditions such as spinal cord conditions, nerve damage, kidney failure, and pregnancy.

The reason that Restless Legs Syndrome happens more common in arthritis patients is unclear. Experts suspect with Rheumatoid Arthritis, the disease process itself may play a role in developing Restless Legs Syndrome.

Restless Legs Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritis

 An immunologic response may be driving Restless Legs Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritisstates. Pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines that are made by the immune system when you have rheumatoid arthritis also impact sleep quality.Some minor studies have shown increased rates of Restless Legs Syndrome in people with other autoimmune diseases.

Iron deficiency is another possible link to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Both Restless Legs Syndrome and Rheumatoid Arthritisare linked with low levels of iron or iron stores in the blood.

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome if You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis

Restless Legs Syndrome is treated the same whether or not you have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Still, it is important to manage your Rheumatoid Arthritis and keep it under good control for your general health.

At times, treating an underlying condition can relieve the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome. If your iron levels are low, for instance, your doctor may recommend iron supplements to correct the deficiency. Nevertheless, do not take iron supplements without checking with your doctor first.

If you have Restless Legs Syndrome without a related condition, treatment may focus on lifestyle changes first. Some steps to help ease symptoms:

  • Exercise
  • Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine to help improve sleep
  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule
  • Take a warm bath and massage your legs to relax your muscles
  • Try a cold pack or heating pad to lessen sensations in your legs

Your doctor may also prescribe medications to lessen the restlessness in your legs such as:

  • Anti-seizure drugs to slow or block pain signals from nerves in the legs
  • Medicines to increase dopamine in the brain
  • Opioids to treat refractory Restless Legs Syndrome that hasn’t responded to other therapy
  • Muscle relaxants and sleep medicines

It might take several trials for you and your doctor to find the right treatment combination that works for you. Talk to your doctor about the potential side effects of Restless Legs Syndrome medications and which may be safest for you.

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