Restless leg syndrome

BeenThe restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition where you are troubled by restless legs. Whilst resting you will experience tingling in the legs. This tingling also happens at night, which means that most people who are troubled by RLS, also have a sleeping disorder. You can only reduce the tingling by moving your legs. In this article we will explain what restless legs syndrome exactly means and what the causes and symptoms are.


About six per cent of adults is suffering from the restless legs syndrome. Women experience RLS about one and a half times more than men. The restless legs syndrome can arise at any age, but is more prevalent amongst the elderly. In about 50 per cent of the cases, other family members are also suffering from the conditions. This causes the thought to arise that there may be a (partly) genetic predisposition.

How does it arise?

It is not completely clear what the exact cause of the restless legs syndrome is. We do know that people with particular conditions have a greater chance of getting RLS, through which we can assume that these conditions cause this syndrome. The complaints of RLS of persons with these conditions are usually also greater than those who do not have any of these conditions. We are talking about Parkinson's disease, insomnia, epilepsy, thyroid problems, kidney disorders and a shortage of iron. Besides this, pregnant women and persons who use particular medicines are more likely to experience the symptoms of the restless legs syndrome.
The condition can be (partly) genetic for some patients. It also appears to be that distortions of the iron metabolism play a big role with the arising of the condition. With different patients, doctors thus tried to help with the shortage of dopamine. This will help to reduce the complaints, but it doesn't take away all of the symptoms. Therefore the dopamine metabolism appears to not be the only problem.
There is one thing which Parkinson's disease, insomnia and epilepsy all have in common. The cause of all these problems is found in a mistake in the passing of signals. This is done through neurotransmitters. Looking at this fact, research has been done in the area of neurotransmitters with persons with restless legs syndrome. MRI scans have been made of patients and from this it appears that people with RLS have significantly high amounts of glutamate in their bodies. This is a neurotransmitter that plays a big role in alertness, the level of consciousness and the regulation of sleep. This substance also plays a big role on your memory and the capacity to learn new things.
Then a research has been done trying to figure out if there is a relationship between the amounts of glutamate and the amounts of sleep people with RLS have. From this it is revealed that the patient sleeps less if the amount of glutamate goes up. This research has also been done with people who do not have RLS and with them it was concluded that there is no relationship between the amounts of glutamate and the duration of sleep. It thus appears to be the case that a higher release of glutamate plats a role with the restless legs syndrome. This probably partially ensures the sleeping difficulties.

What are the symptoms?

When you are suffering from the restless legs syndrome, you are experiencing tingling in the legs. Especially when you are resting. This goes together with an undeniable urge to move. As soon as you move the legs, the complaints disappear almost immediately. In general the complaints are worse in the evening and at night than during the day. The tingling sometimes also occurs in the arms. Furthermore you are often experiencing sleeping problems when you are suffering from the restless legs syndrome. The symptoms of RLS are partially the same as other nerve conditions, such as diabetes type 2. There is however still a clear difference in the symptoms that arise from these conditions.
As a result of the sleeping problems, a person with the restless legs syndrome can come out of bed a lot during the night or postpone the sleep. This results in extreme sleepiness during the day which can then have an influence on the lifestyle. Because a person with RLS is often tired, he or she will undertake less activities. The restless legs syndrome is a reasonably innocent condition that is not paired with pain, but can eventually cause a lot of problems in someones life.

How is the diagnose made

At first the general practitioner will have a look at the complaints that a person is facing. He will ask you what your complaints are and when you are having them. Then the doctor will call in for a blood test, so that you can find out if you are having an iron deficiency. In some cases an extra research will be done, such as a sleeping test through polysomnography.

What can you do against it?

When you are suffering from the restless legs syndrome, it is first of all important that you get a healthy sleeping pattern. When you reduce the sleeping problems you will be less troubled by the tingling at night. You can also improve your sleep by a taking on a better daily sleeping rhythm. Make sure you are going to bed at set times and also wake up at set times. Also get out of bed when you did not have a good night sleep. Furthermore it is important that you do not sleep too much. Make sure you thus do not stay in bed for too long in the mornings. Are you very tired during the day? Then don't sleep for more than half an hour, so that you can have a good sleep at night.
What can also help is to clean up your bedroom, because this will give you mental rest. Make sure you do not do anything other than sleeping in your bedroom (for instance watching television). It is also important that your room is dark enough. Perhaps purchase new curtains that do not allow any light to come into your bedroom. Furthermore you are best off not to go to bed with a too full or too empty stomach. The best is to eat a healthy snack one or two hours before going to bed. Do not drink too much before you go to bed, as this will make you have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. Alcohol can also keep you awake, and so it is important not to drink it too often.
Before you are going to sleep it is a good idea to fully come to resting mode. Make sure you do not move actively before you are going to sleep, because this will keep you up at night. It is also not a good idea to start to think too much about your problems, and so try to do some kind of activity. Do something which is relaxing, such as reading a book, listening to music, yoga or meditation. Watching television before going to bed is not good for your nightly rest, because the light of the screen is to bright. The same goes for being on your smartphone or laptop.
You can also reduce the problems caused by the restless legs syndrome by adapting a healthy lifestyle (in any case this is a good idea for the body and can also prevent other conditions). Try to eat as healthily as possible and eat at regular times. Avoid caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea and some sodas), because they will also disrupt your sleeping patterns. Make sure you are doing enough physical exercise in a day, but do not sport to intensively and at night. Quit smoking and try to reduce your alcohol intake. When you are using supplements, it is recommended to speak to your doctor about this. Some supplements can make the symptoms worse.
It may also help you to once in a while get a massage and do some yoga or meditation daily. It also appears to be the case that negative feelings and fretting can make the symptoms worse. That is why it is good to search for distractions and undertake some kind of activity.
If what is explained above does not help you or not help you enough, you could choose to use medicine. Your doctor can advise you about this. If you are also having an iron deficiency, then it can help you to take an iron supplement. Furthermore you doctor will also test if the medicines that you are using may be worsening the symptoms. He or she can also prescribe you medicines for the restless legs syndrome. These medicines unfortunately do not cure the ailment, but they will help to reduce the complaints.


Article written by: roybor
Times read: 1642x
Added: 13-02-2017 08:08
Last modified: 02-05-2017 22:13

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