You know the feeling: You’re tired out. You lie down to catch some Zs. But before you know it, there it is: that irresistible urge to move your legs. If you’re one of the 10% of Americans with restless legs syndrome (RLS), that sequence of events is — unfortunately — all too familiar.
Restless legs syndrome is a chronic condition that causes that undeniable desire to stretch or move your legs, along with other symptoms, like a creepy-crawly sensation just under your skin. Moving helps — but pretty soon, the symptoms come back, making it nearly impossible to get a decent night’s sleep.
At Desert West Vein & Surgery Center, Atur Kasha, DO, treats restless leg syndrome on an individual basis, identifying the factors contributing to each patient’s condition and then tailoring their treatment to their needs. Sometimes, that means addressing an underlying vein problem. Here’s how RLS and low iron levels are linked.
Iron is an important mineral that helps your blood carry oxygen to your tissues and organs. Most people associate low levels of iron with anemia, a condition that can cause symptoms like fatigue and lightheadedness.
But iron also plays an important role in brain health — specifically in relation to the production, processing, and storage of the neurotransmitter dopamine, a chemical that helps control movements.
Research shows that RLS symptoms are directly related to how well your brain produces and uses dopamine. When iron levels are low, the brain can’t process dopamine effectively, and RLS symptoms worsen.
In fact, MRI studies have shown that people with RLS have low concentrations of iron in a part of the brain that contains the special cells that produce dopamine. Low dopamine levels can have a direct effect on your muscles, interfering with nerve signaling that controls movements and resulting in those hard-to-control urges to move.
The symptoms of iron deficiency aren’t always obvious. Dr. Kasha performs a comprehensive exam, including a review of your symptoms, your medical history, and other factors that could be contributing to RLS and its symptoms.
If he suspects an iron deficiency, he may refer you to your primary care physician, or you may need a blood test to measure the amount of iron in your blood. An iron blood test is simple, but there’s a catch: Some people have iron deficiency-related RLS even when their blood levels of iron are normal. Researchers believe that happens when the brain doesn’t absorb or store iron efficiently, effectively depriving key areas of iron even when there’s an adequate supply in the bloodstream. In these instances, you may need treatment for iron deficiency to see if your symptoms are relieved.
Other treatment options can include:
Many people benefit from a combination of medication (or supplements) and lifestyle changes to improve circulation in their legs.
Without treatment, RLS can deprive you of sleep and interfere with lots of other aspects of your life, too. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can relieve your symptoms, restore your sleep, and reclaim a normal life balance.
To learn more about RLS treatments at our offices in El Paso, Texas, book an appointment online or over the phone with Dr. Kasha and the team at Desert West Vein & Surgery Center today.