Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is very common and is a major cause of sleeping problems. Despite this, many people aren’t even aware the condition exists, or that it can be treated fairly easily.

Symptoms

As the name suggests, restless leg syndrome is typified by:

  • Inability to keep your legs still
  • Your legs kick and itch uncontrollably.
  • Strange, restless sensations couplled with the urge to move. Urges are worse at night and when resting.
  • Just thinking about having to sit still for a long time (e.g. watching a movie) makes you feel anxious.

Diagnosis

The majority of RLS sufferers are often incorrectly diagnosed as suffering from:

  • sleep disorders (although people with RLS do sleep worse than people with other sleep disorders);
  • anxiety
  • depression
  • poor circulation
  • arthritis
  • attention deficit disorder (if the patient is young and can’t keep his legs still)

Medical researchers have now discovered that RLS is a metabolic brain disease and that effective treatment is available. People with RLS – one in 10 people – have a shortage of iron in specific areas of the brain which deal with movement. Even if a standard blood test shows normal blood-iron levels, it doesn’t mean iron levels in the brain are normal.

Low iron levels in the brain lead to a shortage of dopamine, which in turn causes those weird sensations in the legs and the uncontrollable urge to move them. Research has also shown the following: more women than men have RLS (particularly during pregnancy); there is a strong genetic factor; it is worse during periods of inactivity; and chances are slim that the condition will improve without treatment.

Treatment

  • If RLS only affects your sleep patterns occasionally, simple lifestyle changes – such as drinking fewer caffeine-rich beverages like coffee or energy drinks, or cutting down on alcohol – can help.
  • The right iron, folic acid or magnesium supplements can improve your general health if you have a shortage of these minerals. Key nutrients to consider are iron, (preferably powdered) magnesium,  B Vitamins and Vitamin C.
  • Sometimes massage, putting your legs in cold or warm water, or less/more exercise helps reduce the sensations.
  • If you experience RLS once or twice a week and it regularly deprives you of sleep, your doctor may recommend medication that helps restore dopamine levels in the brain.
  • The ideal treatment would be to restore the brain’s iron levels, but in people who already have healthy blood-iron levels but low brain iron, increasingly the levels of iron in the blood may not likely increase brain iron levels.
  • Your doctor may also prescribe correction of the dopamine function by means of a drug that mimics the effect of dopamine. Talk to your GP for treatment options.

 

Do you have RLS?

Answering yes to all of these questions is an indication that you likely have RLS:

  1. Do you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs – usually because you’re experiencing uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in those limbs?
  2. Do these unpleasant sensations get worse when you rest, sit, lie or are inactive?
  3. Does walking, stretching or movement help to relieve these unpleasant sensations – even if the relief lasts only while you’re moving your legs?
  4. Are the symptoms usually worse at night?

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This article was provided by Health365. For more information on maintaining your health, visit www.health365.com.au.