Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a common, but under diagnosed, neurological disorder of movement, that affects around 10% of people. It is the cause of disturbed sleep, fatigue and stress as well as poor quality of life.
RLS should be suspect in anyone who has uncomfortable legs at night.
Definition and Diagnosis – is mainly derived from the symptoms.
The irresistible need or urge to move the legs that results from uncomfortable leg sensations.
It can spread to other body parts, e.g. arms, torso.
It is often confused with other conditions – only 6% of people are correctly diagnosed.
Women get this condition more than men.
Sufferers describe - water flowing in the legs, bugs in the bones, electricity in the legs, crawling, creeping, tingling, jittery, burning, deep-seated, ouchies, ants crawling, my legs need to walk, runaway legs.
Symptoms may be present all day but worsen at night and during periods of inactivity. At night, 85% of patients have associated Periodic Limb Movements, which can cause sleep problems that are often reported by the bed partner. These are involuntary, brief, rhythmic jerks of legs lasting 0.5-5 secs and occur every 20-40 secs.
(PLM can also occur in Parkinsons disease and other conditions where dopamine is impaired.)
Sufferers often complain of depression (over 50% chance), anxiety, lack of concentration, daytime drowsiness and impaired ability to work.
It is a strong cause of sleep impairment.
Children can become restless and can be wrongly diagnosed with ADHD. Night time symptoms can be confused with “growing pains”.
The cause is unclear and the primary type is genetic.
There is impaired Dopamine activity in Substantia Nigra, which is in the brainstem part of the brain.
Low iron in brain - iron is a co-factor in dopamine production.
It can start at any age. It is more insidious than secondary RLS. It is more common in under 40’s. Sufferers are likely to have a family member with it.
Is more abrupt in the onset.
Typically occurs in association with another conditions:
If it’s the primary cause that runs in families, it often responds to Parkinsons drugs like Sinemet or Madopar, which increase dopamine in the brain.
If it’s the secondary cause, then the underlying cause needs to be treated.
In addition, some interventions could help:
Restless Legs Syndrome PDF (64KB)
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