What is restless leg syndrome?
RESTLESS leg syndrome (RLS), otherwise known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a neurological disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs due to an uncomfortable sensation.
It can affect other parts of the body but is usually restricted to the legs and feet. The condition creates an itchy, throbbing, aching, or crawling feeling in the legs. The sensation can be difficult to describe; however, patients consistently describe the desire to move their legs.
It typically occurs in the evening when the patient is sitting or lying down. It is a condition that can begin at any age and usually gets worse the older you get. Most people find that this discomfort lessens with movement such as stretching and walking.
The cause of RLS is unknown, but it is thought to be related to abnormalities within the brain's neurotransmitters, which help to regulate muscle movement. Another school of thought is that there are abnormalities in parts of the central nervous system that control automatic movement. There are some medical conditions that are linked to RLS like kidney failure, anaemia, spinal cord conditions, and peripheral neuropathy.
Pregnancy or hormonal changes may temporarily worsen the symptoms of RLS, but these often disappear after the birth of the baby. Patients are often sleep-deprived due to the symptoms and tend to be sleepy during the daytime. Some people even get depressed as the symptoms can be so irritating.
There is no cure for RLS, but there are various treatments that can help relieve the symptoms.
• Avoid foods or substances that may trigger RLS. Common triggers are nicotine, caffeine and alcohol.
• Check with your general practitioner that the medication you take are not causing RLS as a side effect.
• Physiotherapy and massage may help.
• Apply heat and then cold to the affected area.
• Vibratory or electrical stimulation to the feet before bedtime may help.
• If there is an underlying condition such as diabetes, thyroid disease, Parkinson's disease, or nutritional deficiency, make sure they are treated.
• Develop a regular and good sleep pattern.
• Consider iron, magnesium and B12 supplement. There is not a lot of research to back it up, but some people find these supplements relieve their symptoms.
Angela Davis BSc (Hons) DPodM MChS is a podiatrist with offices in Montego Bay (293- 7119), Mandeville (962-2100), Ocho Rios (974-6339), Kingston (978-8392), and Savanna-la-Mar (955-3154). She is a member of the Health and Care Professions Council in the United Kingdom.