Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is a neurological disorder characterised by an irrepressible need to move the legs. Read below to learn more about the treatment, symptoms, and diagnosis.

Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome
Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome

Everything You Need To Know About Restless Leg Syndrome

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1. What it is: Restless leg syndrome occurs most often in the evening and at night, during rest. Restless leg syndrome is also called Willis and Ekbom disease or impatience in the legs. It affects between 2%-15% of the world population. Women are more commonly affected than men.

2. Symptoms: The characteristic symptom of restless leg syndrome is the need to move the legs. It is usually accompanied by itching, tingling, or pain. These unpleasant feelings are relieved by the movement of the legs. One or both legs may be affected and, in some cases, the arms are also affected. Symptoms usually occur in the evening when the person is lying down. In 80% of cases, involuntary movements of the legs are also observed. This most often leads to chronic insomnia which can result in fatigue.

3. Causes: The origin of restless leg syndrome is poorly understood. However, it is known to be related to two factors: iron deficiency (with or without anemia) and lack of dopamine in the brain and spinal cord. The primary or familial form of restless leg syndrome has a genetic origin. The secondary form, however, can have multiple causes: diabetes, multiple sclerosis, renal failure, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, pregnancy, certain drugs, or consumption of tobacco or alcohol.

4. Diagnosis: In order to make a diagnosis, the doctor relies on the analysis of symptoms, family history, and medical history. They can also perform blood or muscle tests and a sleep observation with a polysomnograph, a device used to record activity during sleep.

5. Treatments: As a first step, it is important to determine the cause of restless legs syndrome in order to treat it effectively, for example, through iron supplements if it is caused by low iron levels. In mild cases of the disease, following a healthy lifestyle can be sufficient to treat the condition. It is therefore recommended to go to bed and get up at a set time, exercise, maintain a balanced diet, and avoid alcohol and/or coffee. If that's not enough, medication can be prescribed. This medication is dopaminergic, which aims to overcome the lack of dopamine. Whilst this does not treat the syndrome itself, it helps to minimise symptoms and help the patient to sleep better.

6. What you can do: If symptoms of restless legs syndrome appear, some simple actions can help relieve them: get up and walk for a few minutes, massage your legs, apply compresses, or keep your attention on another activity.

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