A good night’s rest is essential for the normal functioning of the body. What happens if at night, while sleeping or falling asleep, a person experiences discomfort in the legs, which forces him to make involuntary movements to relieve these sensations and deprive him of the several hours of sleep that we so need? In this article, we will tell you what Restless Legs Syndrome is, its signs, causes, and treatment. Find out all about this sleep disorder.
What is restless legs syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome or Ekboma syndrome (also known as syndrome Willis Ekboma or Vitmaka-Ekboma , named after the Swedish study this disorder neurologist K.Ekboma) – a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs (rarely – in the hands), manifested at rest (usually when a person is sitting or lying down). To alleviate this condition, the patient is forced to move – to get up, walk, etc. Restless legs syndrome is categorized as “sleep disorders ”.
Ekbom syndrome is a chronic disorder that progresses slowly. This means that symptoms increase in intensity over time.
This disorder affects 3 to 15% of the general population, both men and women (more common in women). Despite the fact that the syndrome can appear at any time, it most often develops after 40 years. In 20% of cases, the syndrome is associated with other diseases (renal failure, anemia, spinal cord diseases, peripheral neuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, etc. More than one person from the same family often suffers from this disorder.
Symptoms of restless legs syndrome
People with Ekbom syndrome describe the main symptoms of the disease as “strange sensations,” “painful tingling,” “chills,” “cramping,” “burning,” etc. They also complain of pain, nervousness, and control problems. Let’s take a closer look at the symptoms of this disorder:
- Uncontrolled need to move legs (less often – hands), accompanied by unpleasant sensations or not. This type of abnormal sensations is called paresthesia (a sensory disorder in which sensations of burning, tingling occur spontaneously) or, if these sensations are unpleasant, dysesthesia (perverted paradoxical sensitivity, in which, for example, heat is perceived as cold, etc.) …
- Movement relief: Discomfort decreases or disappears.
- Flare-ups in the late evening or night make it difficult to fall asleep and reduce the quality of sleep. This causes drowsiness during the day.
- Worse at rest: while sitting, lying, in a car, train, at a movie, at a computer, etc.
Consequences of Ekbom’s syndrome
Restless legs syndrome has a serious impact on a person’s quality of life and well-being:
- Physical consequences: sleep disturbances, exhaustion, headache, muscle, and joint problems, etc.
- Psychological consequences: mood swings, nervousness, irritability, depression, anxiety, anxiety, apathy, problems with concentration,memory problems, etc. The anxiety and depressive effects increase due to fatigue as the physical condition deteriorates. Therefore, in addition to medical care, a mental health professional may be required.
- Social consequences: disruption of daily activities, misunderstanding on the part of relatives, low labor productivity (in early cases, schooling), a tendency towards solitude and isolation, etc.
Causes of restless legs syndrome
Most of the research in this area points to neurotransmitter-related disorders dopamine. Its function is related to the regulation of movements (the implementation of movements and their coordination ). Dopamine needs iron to function properly. People with restless legs syndrome are deficient in iron and ferritin (a protein that stores iron in body tissues) in 30% of cases.
Lesions of the peripheral nerves of the extremities, as well as an increase in the concentration of uric acid in the bloodstream, can be another cause of restless legs syndrome.
There are a number of predisposing factors that increase the risk of developing this disease:
- Family history. Attention should be paid to the genetic factor that affects every third patient suffering from this disease.
- Advanced age.
- Use of certain drugs, such as dopamine agonists (blocking this neurotransmitter) and selective reuptake inhibitors serotonin (allows serotonin to be active in the brain over a longer period of time).
- Excessive use of caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol.
- Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. Diseases of the gastrointestinal tract such as celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth of the intestines, or Crohn’s disease. These types of diseases lead to iron deficiency, a sufficient amount of which, as we discussed earlier, is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of dopamine.
Diagnosing restless legs syndrome
The patient’s medical history is very important for the correct diagnosis. The presence of periodic spasmodic movements during sleep and sometimes in a state of wakefulness (observed in 80% of cases and usually lasts 10 to 60 seconds each time), genetic predisposition, and previous reactions to dopaminergic drugs – data that are also studied at diagnosis … In addition, a number of medical tests and tests are usually performed:
- Sleep research. Sleep polysomnography and other tests are done to check for periodic limb movements. Based on these data, conclusions are drawn about the quality of sleep.
- Blood test. The indicators of iron and ferritin in the blood are checked.
- Electromyography and nerve conduction. Used to examine lesions of the peripheral nerves of the legs and/or arms.
Restless legs syndrome and fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic disorder that causes fatigue as well as musculoskeletal pain and hypersensitivity. An estimated 31% of people with fibromyalgia have restless legs syndrome. With both pathologies, violations in work are observed nervous system and neurotransmitters that are associated with muscle contraction.
As we will see below, appropriate treatment for restless legs syndrome will improve the quality of life for people diagnosed with fibromyalgia.
Restless legs syndrome during pregnancy
Up to 30% of pregnant women suffer from Ekbom Syndrome. As a rule, it manifests itself in the third trimester of pregnancy. In addition to low levels of iron, hormonal changes occurring at this stage affect the development of the syndrome. In particular, estrogens reduce dopamine production. Symptoms usually disappear soon after delivery.
It is important to note that this condition does not interfere with the proper development of pregnancy. However, most medications for restless legs syndrome are not recommended at this stage of fetal development. In this article, we’ll walk you through alternative measures to help relieve annoying symptoms.
Restless legs syndrome treatment
Did you know that 90% of people with restless legs syndrome are unaware of their condition? Therefore, if symptoms appear, you should see a doctor. The healthcare professional will determine if these symptoms are associated with restless legs syndrome or not. If the diagnosis is confirmed, a treatment plan is drawn up, aimed not only at reducing symptoms but also at improving the quality of life in general.
Because of poor sleep quality and depression, anxiety, and nervousness, drugs are used to reduce patient discomfort.
- Dopaminergic agonists. These substances perform the same function as the neurotransmitter of the same name, although their physiological effect is not as great as that of the neurotransmitter itself. They are able to stimulate dopamine receptors in the brain. Mild side effects such as fatigue, dizziness, or nausea may occur. Less commonly, they can cause decreased impulse control or increased daytime sleepiness.
- Antiepileptic drugs. Although these drugs are mainly used to treat epilepsy, they have been shown to be effective in restless legs syndrome.
- Opioids are natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic derivatives of opium. They perform analgesic functions at specific pain receptors in the central nervous system. Special care should be taken when using them, as high doses of these drugs can be addictive.
- Sleeping and muscle relaxants. Benzodiazepines can help you sleep, but they do not relieve leg discomfort. They are usually prescribed only if other medications have not worked.
Every person is unique. It may be necessary to do several tests to find the most effective and most suitable drug or combination of drugs for each case. Usually, the drug is initially prescribed in small doses, which, if necessary, are increased depending on the reaction of the body.
Additionally, if your doctor detects a lack of iron in your blood, he or she may add iron supplements to your treatment.
Practical tips for home
Small changes in daily habits can help people with restless legs syndrome significantly improve symptoms of the condition:
- Improve your sleep hygiene. Adequate lighting, favorable temperatures and a calm environment are essential for a good rest. Sleep and wakefulness routines are just as important. You need to sleep at least six hours.
- Keep a sleep diary . Write down everything related to your sleep and rest in a journal or notebook: sleep problems, medications that help you, etc. Share these records with your healthcare professional to help you get your disease under control.
- Say no to stimulants. Avoid coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks, and of course alcohol, tobacco, and any other drugs.
- Keep your body hydrated! Drink plenty of water, even when you are not thirsty. Water is a great alternative to other drinks.
- Go in for sports. Walking and regular, moderate physical activity can often help improve the situation. However, be careful! Intense exercise or sports late at night can exacerbate the symptoms of Ekbom syndrome as well as increase stress.
- Sign up for circles, sections, etc. Activities such as music therapy, tai chi, acupuncture, or yoga are included in restless legs rehabilitation. Don’t forget to bring comfortable clothing and shoes. Activities like these can also help you focus on other things and not pay constant attention to symptoms.
- Use cold and warm handkerchiefs or towels . Alternating warm and cold fabrics can reduce discomfort.
- Don’t resist the movement . Trying to suppress involuntary leg movements can only exacerbate symptoms.
- Pamper yourself with a bath and massage . Warm baths and foot massage help to relax the muscles. Use oils or other moisturizers. Stretching is also helpful, especially at the end of the day.
- Avoid medications that aggravate symptoms . Antihistamines, drugs for dizziness, some antidepressants and antipsychotics, dopamine blocking sedatives, etc. If you need to take them, be sure to talk to your doctor about combining them with other medications you are taking for restless legs.
- Seek support from your immediate circle . While it may seem different, restless legs syndrome is not a reason to be ashamed. Share the problem with your family and friends so that they can support and help you. You shouldn’t go through this alone.
- Seek outside support . There are associations, support groups, communities, etc. for people with restless legs syndrome. You can help each other and move on together.
The most suitable diet for restless legs syndrome
Yes that’s right! Eating well can also help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Also mentioned iron supplements are also useful magnesium and potassium supplements, and vitamin B . As for the diet, in this situation it is recommended:
- Raw unprocessed foods: vegetables (especially cabbage), root vegetables, fruits (especially on an empty stomach and rich in vitamin C), dried fruits, seeds (such as sesame), legumes, whole grains, etc.
- Yogurt, kefir, low mineralized water and fruit teas.
- Poultry and fish meat (pre-frozen).
What to AVOID:
- Semi-finished, processed or packaged foods.
- Seafood, red meat and foods with saturated animal fat (sausages, cervelates, pates, sausages, etc.)
- New milk.
- Sugar, packed fruit juices, refined carbohydrates.
- Fried food.
- Foods containing gluten.
- Products with additives (preservatives, colors, sweeteners, flavors, etc.).
- Products containing monosodium glutamate, the so-called flavor enhancer (oriental dishes abound in it).