Can’t rest your legs? You may have Restless Leg Syndrome

Is your quality of life and sleep severely disturbed by a sudden uncomfortable and strange urge to move your legs You Tube? Do you find yourself twitching and kicking at night when you should be asleep? These are the typical symptoms of Restless leg syndrome (RLS) also known as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED).

Researchers believe that RLS is commonly misdiagnosed as insomnia and other neurological or musculoskeletal conditions, and that 1 out of 10 people suffer from restless legs. Treatment is available for the condition, but it can’t be completely cured.

You may have RLS if:

  • You have an uncomfortable need or urge to move your legs. Symptoms include
    • itchiness
    • cramps
    • a burning sensation
    • tingling
    • aches
  • The symptoms are worse in the early evening or late at night.
  • The symptoms come on with being relaxed, and you feel temporary relief with walking or stretching.

Causes

Lack of iron: Iron deficiency (anaemia) is a common cause of RLS. Iron supplements may help, especially if you’re anaemic.

Brain dopamine: Your brain uses the neurotransmitter dopamine to communicate and produce muscle activity and movement. It helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centres; and regulates movement and emotional responses. When there’s a disturbance in the way your brain uses this chemical (as a result of low iron levels in the brain), it causes the strange sensations in the legs and the uncontrollable urge to move them.

Genes: If your parents or a family member had RLS, there’s a chance you may get it too.

Possible triggers

  • Alcohol interferes with your sleep and may provoke sleep apnoea, as well as RLS symptoms. Drink a glass of warm milk before bedtime, to unleash a tryptophan boost to help you sleep.
  • Nicotine is a stimulant that weakens blood flow to muscles and can worsen restless legs. Avoid cigarettes, e-cigarettes and vaporisers.
  • Caffeine is a stimulant that can boost your energy levels. It’s not good for the condition as it can leave you restless.
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Commonly used medication to treat RLS:

  • Painkillers
  • Parkinson’s medications that affect dopamine.
  • Anti-anxiety medications.
  • Anti-seizure medications.

Help at hand

  • Iron, folic acid or magnesium supplements can improve your health, especially if you’re not getting enough of these essential vitamins.
  • Simple leg stretches can help stop RLS symptoms. Do a few before bedtime.
  • Take a hot bath before bedtime to relax your muscles.
  • Apply a hot or cold compress to your leg muscles.
  • Massage your legs frequently to get the blood flowing nicely.
  • Read a book or watch your favourite program, to distract your mind.
  • Try relaxation exercises like yoga or tai chi.

If you have any of these symptoms, and you’re not sure if you have RLS, why not log in and chat to one of our doctors? If you’re not a member yet, just sign up here!

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