Northwestern Press

Friday, January 17, 2020

Healthy Geezer: Restless legs a syndrome with explanation

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 by FRED CICETTISpecial to The Press in Focus

Q. I’ve been seeing lots of references about “restless legs syndrome.” I’ve never heard of this condition. Is it rare?

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) affects about one in 10 adults in North America and Europe. RLS is found in men and women but can begin in children. The percentage of people with RLS increases with age. Seniors experience symptoms longer and more frequently.

Many researchers believe that RLS is under-reported. Victims of RLS are often diagnosed as suffering from insomnia, depression or a disorder of the nerves, muscles or skeleton.

RLS is a neurologic movement disorder. It produces uncomfortable sensations that cause an irresistible urge to move the legs. RLS symptoms can be relieved temporarily by movement. Symptoms occur during inactivity and strike most frequently during the evening. These attacks lead to sleep problems.

The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation says there must be five essential features present for a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome:

You have a strong urge to move your legs (sometimes arms and trunk), usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs.

Your symptoms begin or become worse when you are resting or inactive, such as when lying down or sitting.

Your symptoms get better when you move, such as when you walk or stretch, at least as long as the activity continues.

Your symptoms are worse in the evening or night than during the day, or only occur in the evening or nighttime hours.

Your symptoms are not solely accounted for by another condition such as leg cramps, positional discomfort, leg swelling or arthritis.

RLS may be inherited. About half of patients have a family history of the RLS. There is a lower incidence of RLS in Asia than there is in North America and Europe.

There are two forms of RLS: primary and secondary. Primary RLS is unrelated to other disorders; its cause is unknown. Secondary RLS can be brought on by kidney failure, pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia or some medications. Research has shown that there is a relationship between RLS and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Most people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which causes leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep.

There are drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat RLS. These include Mirapex, Requip and Neupro. There are also several drugs approved for other conditions that help alleviate RLS symptoms.

It is possible to combat the symptoms in other ways. Walking, massage, stretching, hot or cold baths, vibration, acupressure, meditation and yoga can help.

Caffeine and alcohol can worsen RLS symptoms.

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