Does your child frequently complain of odd sensations in his or her legs, cure particularly at night? Do you notice that your youngster tosses and turns, shakes or kicks a leg, has to get up and move – when he or she is supposed to be sound asleep? Perhaps your youngster has Restless Leg Syndrome.
What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), also called Wittmaack-Ekbom’s Syndrome, is a medical condition characterized by an urged to move the limbs in order to gain relief from uncomfortable sensations. It usually affects the legs, but can also be found in the arms and in rare occasions, the torso. Restless Legs Syndrome is believed to affect around 12 million Americans, including children.
The main symptom for RLS is dysesthesias: unpleasant, abnormal sensations in the limbs that may at times be painful.
Dysesthesia in RLS differ from patient to patient. Some people report a feeling of numbness on their arms or legs, as if the limbs are falling asleep. Others feel a burning sensation. Others experience a sensation something like insects crawling under their skin. But while the exact symptom differs from patient to patient, one thing is common: the uncomfortable sensation is relieved by moving the limbs, e.g. by walking or stretching. Symptoms are also worse during nighttime or moments of rest.
RLS may have a sudden onset, or it may gradually grow in intensity.
What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?
It is not known what causes Restless Legs Syndrome but chemical processes within the basal ganglia are one suspected cause. Genetic factors may also be involved, especially when onset is before age 40. Certain medications can trigger episodes as can certain diseases.
Research has associated the cause of Restless Legs Syndrome with various biological conditions such as iron deficiency, sleep apnea, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, auto-immune conditions and irregular electrical impulses in the brain. In more than half of the reported cases of Restless Legs Syndrome, the condition runs in the family. RLS also sometimes occurs in pregnant women, smokers and persons with obesity.
Diagnosis and Treatment
It’s important that you consult a physician for proper diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome. This is because there are many illnesses and conditions that mimic the symptoms of RLS, and differential diagnosis by a professional can help verify if what you have is really RLS. The condition is diagnosed through a thorough medical history and interview.
Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome includes medication and prescribed physical movement. The neurological explanation appears the strongest, which is why dopamine agonists (drugs that regulate the brain chemical dopamine) are first line management. Other medications typically prescribed for RLS include opioids, diazepam and ropinerol. Supplements that can address specific vitamin and mineral deficiencies known to be associated with the symptoms may also be prescribed.
To relieve symptoms, even temporarily, patients are also taught movement techniques specific to the sensation they are experiencing. Non-traditional schools of medicine, such as osteopathy and acupuncture also offer holistic techniques for relief of RLS.
To be safe, always consult a licensed medical practitioner before availing of advertised treatments.