By Joe Rector
For several years, I’ve been plagued by RLS—Restless Leg Syndrome. No, it’s not a disease, just like other conditions discussed in commercials aren’t diseases. Still, this thing is more than a bit troublesome. I constantly look for cures or aids for RLS but don’t discover many.
For those who don’t know about RLS, I’ll give a short explanation of it. Imagine that you are on a track team. You walk to your assigned lane, put your knees on the track, and then step into the starting block. That feeling of tension in your legs as you anticipate the start is akin to RLS. When I lie down at night to go to sleep, I relax and then begin to sink into sleep. Suddenly, my leg tense, my thigh and calf muscles contract, and sleep disappears.
When I first experienced this nightmare, I would do stretching exercises, and some nights, I walked the driveway back and forth for long periods of time. At some point in the middle of the night, I returned to bed and fell into a fitful, light sleep for the next few hours until the alarm clock went off. My days were filled with exhaustion, and yes, I felt depression over the bleakness of dealing with RLS from now on.
I did consult a neurologist. She ran tests, which included shocking my legs in some way to measure muscle response. At the end, she prescribed Mirapex. It is a medicine used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, but it helps to calm the movement of legs. For years, I’ve taken the stuff, but now I’ve developed a tolerance for the drug. So, another trip to the doctor resulted in a new prescription.
Now I am taking Gabapentin. This drug is used to treat seizures and nerve pain. With the first dose of this stuff, I suffered terrible RLS symptoms until I drugged myself with a combination of this drug and Mirapex.
At 3:15 a.m. I finally found some relief. The second night I slept the best I have in years. The problem side effects include grogginess and possible memory loss. “Oh, Dear Lord,” I thought. I often have a hard time finding my car keys now, and I put things away in safe places that I never remember. Now, I’m on a medicine that might make me forget that I read the paper or just finished a task.
At this point, I think I will take the risk with the new medication. My first action was to tell Amy about the side effect just so she would know I am not losing my mind if I forget things. Sleeping soundly through the night is also something to which I look forward. My doctor has helped Gabapentin with a small dose of Clonazepam. Together, they’ve conquered the RLS problem.
All of this is to say that this growing older is sometime a real pain in the…legs. My legs have always been skinny, and plenty of folks have joked about them. It doesn’t seem fair that such thin limbs should suffer so. Why can’t someone with gigantic legs and bulging muscles deal with this instead?
At any rate, I am excited to have a new approach to RLS. Sure, I fall asleep way too early each evening because of the medicine’s effect, and my memory might erode. I only hope I can remember the way home and my weekly deadline for this column. If not, I’ll stop this treatment and return to nightly walks in the driveway.