Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Day 2022

What is Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Day?

Restless Legs Syndrome, sometimes known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition characterised by the overwhelming urge to move the legs. These urges are accompanied by uncomfortable sensations in the legs, which are temporarily relieved by these movements. It can be disruptive to daily activities, especially sleep, as people report that symptoms worsen in the evenings. The condition can vary in severity from person to person. Some people report persistent urges all day, while others say they experience symptoms on occasion.

Restless Legs Syndrome is a lifelong neurological condition that is believed to affect around 7% of the global population. It is sometimes remarked as the ‘most common condition you’ve never heard about’ as it affects more people than diabetes.

Despite the prevalence and extensive research on Restless Legs Syndrome, scientists have been unable to determine the exact cause of the condition. There are some indications that genetics plays a role, as 40-90% of all people with Restless Legs Syndrome have a relative that also experiences symptoms. However, there is also evidence suggesting that Restless Legs Syndrome is related to underlying vein problems as well as iron deficiency.

Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Day is observed every year on the 23rd of September to commemorate the birthday of Professor Karl-Axel Ekborn. Ekborn was a Swedish neurologist and the first person to ever write about the condition in 1945.

The day seeks to raise awareness of this still widely misunderstood condition, correct any misconceptions, and strive for a cure.

What are some common symptoms?

  • An overwhelming urge to move your legs.
  • Uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs and sometimes the arms.
  • Urges begin or become worse and more overwhelming when you are resting or inactive (e.g. lying down or sitting).
  • Symptoms are worse in the evening, especially when attempting to sleep.
  • Cramping, positional discomfort, and sometimes even swelling in the legs.

What are the suspected causes of Restless Legs Syndrome?

  • Evidence suggests that the condition is hereditary. This is called primary or familial Restless Legs Syndrome. Researchers are still looking for a potential gene or genes that cause the condition.
  • It is sometimes caused by the start of another condition or disease. This is known as secondary Restless Legs Syndrome.
  • Pregnancy is also believed to be a cause. It is estimated that around 25% of women develop the condition during pregnancy, but symptoms often disappear after giving birth.
  • Anaemia contributes to a worsening of symptoms.
  • Patients undergoing dialysis for renal disease often develop the condition.
  • Nerve damage in the hands and feet.
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is common in children with Restless Legs Syndrome.

How many children suffer from Restless Legs Syndrome?

Research is inconclusive, but it is estimated that 1.5 million children and adolescents in the United States alone are affected by the condition.

 Are there any medications or substances that are known to worsen symptoms?

  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Antihistamines
  • Anti-dizziness and anti-nausea medications
  • Antidepressants

How do doctors diagnose Restless Legs Syndrome?

  • Conduct a holistic medical evaluation to identify any symptoms listed under the essential criteria.
  • Review your medical history.
  • Check your iron levels.
  • Ask you to stay overnight to conduct a sleep study to determine if your sleep disruption has any other causes.
  • Rule out any symptoms and conditions that are often misidentified as the condition.

What medical interventions can be used to alleviate symptoms?

  • 2-3% of people with Restless Legs Syndrome experience such severe symptoms that they require pharmaceutical treatment.
  • A 2006 study found that a combination of aerobic exercise and lower body resistance training several times a week reduced the severity of the symptoms

 

For more information, check out: RLS AWARE – Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation

Image by Danie Franco