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The Restless Legs Syndrome: Constant Movement Effort Disrupts Sleep

The Restless Legs Syndrome Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

The Restless Legs Syndrome Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

An unpleasant tingling, twitching and burning goes through the legs – each evening before falling asleep again. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is one of the most common neurological disorders and affects the sleep rhythm and the psyche of those affected. A curative therapy is not yet available, but here you will learn how life can be shaped with the disease

A disease that takes away sleep: Patients suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) suffer from tingling, pain, and unexplained movement in their legs. For every 100,000 people, the RLS occurs approximately 7,000 times. Thus, suffering is among the most common neurological disorders.

The probability of the disease increases with age. Women are more affected than men. Especially during pregnancy and after the birth of several children women run the risk that the syndrome breaks out. If cases of restless leg syndrome are known in the family, the likelihood is increased themselves.

Cause Restless Legs Syndrome: Dopamine metabolism

The restless leg syndrome is divided into a primary form (idiopathic) and a secondary form (symptomatic). Approximately two-thirds of all patients suffer from a primary form. Doctors suspect the cause for this is a disturbance of the dopamine metabolism in the brain. Which functions are exactly disturbed and how the outbreak of RLS comes, has not yet been clarified.

The secondary form of the RLS is always the symptom of another underlying disease. These may include renal insufficiency, iron deficiency , anemia , pregnancy, nervous system disorders, Parkinson’s disease , folic acid deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis , or a deficiency of vitamin B12. Also certain drugs such as neuroleptics, antidepressants, stomach acid blockers and lithium can cause the syndrome.

If the syndrome occurs familially, a genetic change is the cause. Researchers have so far identified four genes that can alter the RLS. But here too the exact origin of the disease is not clear.

Symptoms of restless leg syndrome: tingling, twitching, pain, and urge to move

In the syndrome of the restless legs, it is mainly to unpleasant sensation in the limbs. Usually the feet, thighs and thighs are affected. However, the hands, arms or upper body can also cause discomfort. The specific tingling and the dysfunctions are localized in the muscles and improve by movement. During periods of falling asleep, as well as during sleep, periodic convulsions occur, which cause waking. The constant urge to move prevents restful sleep: those affected suffer chronic fatigue during the day. The concentration is disturbed and performance is limited.

Especially during periods of physical rest, the symptoms become noticeable. At night, in the cinema or theater, during long journeys in the car, bus, train or plane, in the office or during longer waiting times, for instance, the doctor usually has a tingling sensation in his legs. However, the disease does not have to occur permanently, patients always have symptom-free phases, which make a diagnosis more difficult.

Diagnosis by anamnesis: The family doctor transfers to the neurologist

If the above symptoms occur, a doctor’s visit is necessary. The GP is the first contact for the complaints and can assess whether it is RLS or any other disease. Nocturnal cramps, multiple sclerosis, a disease of the leg veins (eg peripheral occlusive disease ), a thyroid dysfunction, sleep apnea or a disease of the nervous system are characterized by similar symptoms and must be excluded. A blood test can point to a possible basic disease (iron deficiency, anemia). If there is a suspicion of restless leg syndrome, the GP will recommend a suitable neurologist.

There, the patient undergoes certain tests which test the nervous conductivity. If necessary, an MRI of the vertebral column is necessary. During a stay in the sleep laboratory the sleepiness behavior, as well as the nocturnal twitchings of the limbs, can be recorded. Patients often do not notice that they wake up several times at night and do not find a restful sleep.

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome: So you can sleep

Since the exact cause of the disease is not known, it can not be treated causally. However, there are good ways to get the symptoms under control. Anyone wishing to dispense with a drug therapy can test the following measures in a self-experiment:

  • Avoid alcohol and nicotine
  • Do not use caffeine
  • Regular evening walks or other moderate exercise
  • Gymnastics and stretching exercises before falling asleep
  • A good sleep hygiene (regulated times)
  • Cooling fumes on the legs
  • Massages (if necessary with Franzbranntwein)
  • Warming baths
  • Relaxation exercises like autogenic training or tai chi

If these remedies do not help to normalize the sleep rhythm, the normal medication should be tested together with the doctor or pharmacist. It may be a remedy that can cause the symptoms.

 Medications for RLS: L-Dopa as a means of choice

If the non-medicinal methods fail, the neurologist can prescribe the medication L-Dopa. The preparation acts on dopaminergic system in the brain and reduces the symptoms quickly. However, unusual reactions may occur: some patients report increased symptoms after they have started the therapy. How this reaction occurs is unclear (augmentation).

Other medications may also help treat the disorder symptomally. The medication must always be agreed with the treating physician and must not be altered or discontinued in self-government.

The diet can support the therapy

As with all people, a balanced and healthy diet is also important for those affected by the RLS. Since coffee, alcohol and nicotine negatively affect the sleep rhythm, they can strengthen the restless legs syndrome signs. Therefore, these pleasures should rather be dispensed with. In turn, there are foods that promote healthy sleep. By their ingredients (L-tryptophan, also contained in sleeping means) milk products, pasta, peanuts and fruit varieties like pineapple, figs, dates and bananas have a positive effect.

If iron deficiency is the cause of the disease, the right diet can be countered. Especially red meat contains a high iron content. Also soybeans, lentils, walnuts and berries are suitable for iron deficiency. If you also take up a lot of vitamin C, the absorption of the iron into the organism can support.

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