Diabetes & Restless Leg Syndrome: What You Need to Know

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How is RLS related to diabetes

The exact relationship between restless leg syndrome and diabetes is still unclear, but many experts believe that diabetes is a contributing factor in the development of RLS. This is because uncontrolled blood glucose levels can lead to nerve damage known as peripheral neuropathy over time. And a damaged nervous system, as you may imagine, doesn’t function properly, often leaving patients with tingly, numb, or painful sensations of a wide variety.

Restless leg syndrome can be made worse when a person with diabetes also suffers from sleeplessness due to impaired glucose metabolism. Roughly 45 percent of people with diabetes have regular trouble sleeping. And, sadly, once you have RLS, it can contribute to a further inability to sleep because of the difficulty it presents for lying still as you try to fall asleep. Because sleep is important for overall health, it’s important to control the symptoms of your RLS and try to keep regular sleep patterns.

How is RLS diagnosed?

There is no blood test for restless leg syndrome, but your doctor may perform blood tests to rule out other health issues that could be causing your symptoms, such as kidney failure. Once other issues are ruled out, restless leg syndrome is diagnosed based solely on your symptoms. So make sure you’re as honest and open as possible with your doctor about your symptoms.

How is RLS treated?

There is no cure for restless leg syndrome, but you can keep your symptoms under control with treatment. There are several different treatment methods you can try, and you should talk to your doctor about the underlying causes of your RLS to help you make the right decision about which treatment(s) to try.

Some common medications used for restless leg syndrome include dopamine agonists (to increase dopamine levels), benzodiazepines (sedatives to help with sleep), and gabapentin (an anticonvulsant).

However, non-drug treatments exist as well. Lifestyle changes, such as cutting out alcohol or smoking, getting regular exercise early in the day, and establishing regular sleep patterns may help quell the uncomfortable sensations of restless leg syndrome. Massaging the area, stretching, applying compresses, or taking warm baths may also offer benefits.


Do you have diabetes and restless leg syndrome? How do you deal with your discomfort and involuntary movement? We’d love to hear your opinions and suggestions in the comments!

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Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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