Restless Legs Syndrome: Guidelines for Diagnosing and Treatment
Morton, Kathy Scammell
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Restless legs syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by unpleasant, deep-seated paresthesis in the legs. Patients have an irresistible urge to walk or move their legs to relieve the discomfort. Symptoms ccur primarily at night and become more intense after the patient goes to bed. Patients describe these sensations as tingling, crawling, burning or aching. The myoclonic jerking associated with Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) causes the patient to be aroused several times during the course of a night's sleep, resulting in decreased quality of sleep. In most cases, onset of symptoms is not associated with any neurologic, metabolic or circulatory disturbance. A positive family history exists in 30% to 50% of the patients with RLS. Secondary causes of RLS include iron deficiency anemia, renal insufficiency and folate deficiency. Treatment is aimed at relieving the symptoms or ameliorating them. Dopaminergic drugs are the agents-of-choice due to their efficacy in treating the symptoms of RLS. Nurse practitioners can effectively diagnose and treat RLS by recognizing the signs and symptoms. The goal of treatment is aimed at improving the patients overall quality-of-sleep and alleviating anxiety associated with RLS.