If you have experienced a consistent and often uncomfortable urge to move your legs, especially at night, you may have a condition known as restless leg syndrome. Restless legs syndrome, or Willis-Ekbom disease, is a neurological disorder that affects approximately 7% of the population.
What are the signs of restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
You may notice an unpleasant feeling after sitting for long periods of time, including aching, throbbing, tugging, or itching. Your symptoms may vary from crawling and creeping sensations to more of an electric tingle going through your legs. Even though RLS may seem like just an annoyance, it can have adverse effects on your physical and mental well-being.
The desire to move your legs can disrupt sleep, leading to a lack of energy, irritability, and the inability to perform your normal daily activities. Your quality of life depends on you getting a good night’s sleep. If you notice any of the signs of restless legs syndrome, talk to your physician about your concerns.
Treatment for RLS
You don’t have to suffer with restless legs syndrome. Small lifestyle changes can help you reduce your symptoms. Sitting still for long periods of time on an airplane, in a theater, or at your desk, can contribute to RLS. Get up periodically to move and stretch. Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco products can also help to ease your symptoms. A warm bath and massage in the evening may also help.
Let your doctor know if your symptoms continue. There are medications available that may help, including Mirapex, Neupro, and Requip, FDA-approved drugs for treatment of moderate to severe RLS. Other options include sedative medications such as benzodiazepines, narcotic pain relievers, or anti-seizure medications such as Tegretol, Lyrica, and Horizant. The medication prescribed for you by your doctor will depend on your specific symptoms, your individual health history, and any underlying medical issues you may have.
Most cases of restless legs syndrome are not connected to another illness, but it can be caused by other conditions, including kidney failure, nerve damage, iron deficiency, and spinal cord injury. It’s important to discuss all of your medical concerns with your doctor so that any underlying conditions can be ruled out before treating your RLS.
How Can Medicare Help?
Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) can help cover the costs of doctor services and care you receive in an outpatient setting. You will likely pay 20% of the Medicare approved amount as long as your doctor accepts assignment. Your Part B deductible will apply. If you have Original Medicare, you may purchase a Medigap policy to help cover the costs that Original Medicare does not, including copayments, coinsurance, and deductibles.
Medicare Part D (prescription drug coverage) can help reduce the out-of-pocket costs of medications you need to treat restless legs syndrome. If you have Original Medicare, you will need to enroll in a stand-alone Prescription Drug Plan (PDP) to get help paying for medications prescribed by your doctor.
Medicare Advantage plans, offered by private insurance companies to provide your Part A and Part B benefits, are required to provide at least the same coverage as Original Medicare, but many offer more, including prescription drug coverage. Drug plans can vary in cost, with tiers of pricing for generic, brand name and mail-order drugs. Each plan will have its own formulary, or list of covered drugs, so make sure the medication your doctor prescribes in included in your plan’s formulary.