Are restless legs serious?
A spontaneous jerking of a leg in the night that sends the cat flying onto the top of the wardrobe may be funny as a one off, but it's actually quite distressing if the leg jerking is diagnosed as restless leg syndrome. It's not just the leg jerking that is a problem either, people who suffer from it often get itchy feet, a creepy crawling sensation running through their legs and horrible leg cramps.
What causes restless legs?
Approximately one in ten people have the problem at any one time and nobody has clearly established what causes it yet. More women than men tend to suffer from it and women are even more likely to suffer from it during pregnancy. The problem can run in families so there may be a genetic factor but it can also be a secondary symptom of another problem such as iron deficiency and reduced kidney function. Neurologists also think that the problem may be related to the way that the body uses dopamine. Restless leg syndrome is not a serious disease but it can worsen with time and can really affect a person's well-being in the long term. Restless leg syndrome causes problems sleeping both for the person suffering from it and for their partner and the lack of sleep can lead to anxiety and depression.
Some medications make restless leg syndrome worse
New research shows that restless leg syndrome may also be linked to migraines and the use of some prescription medicines as well as vitamin D deficiency.
A group of researchers have used the national US patient registry to try and determine if there is a link between the use of four prescription medicines and restless leg syndrome in kidney dialysis patients. This was a huge study that included over 16,000 patients of which 3234 suffered from restless leg syndrome and 12,000 did not and acted as a control. The researchers looked at use of antidepressants, neuroleptics, antihistamines and atiemetics. These medications are used regularly in dialysis patients to treat depression, psychological problems, itching and slow emptying of the stomach. Results showed that all four medications were linked to higher likelihood of having a diagnosis of restless leg syndrome. The group concludes that the medicines should only be used if the patient benefit is large enough to compensate for the negative symptoms of restless leg syndrome that may result.
Restless leg syndrome related to migraines
In a study carried out in Germany, researchers reviewed the information from twenty four different studies that included data on migraine and restless leg syndrome. Results showed a much higher rate of migraines in people diagnosed with restless leg syndrome than in the general population. However the number of people diagnosed with migraine that reported symptoms of restless leg syndrome was similar to the general population.
Can Vitamin D supplements help?
A small study has shown that vitamin D supplements can reduce the severity of restless leg syndrome symptoms. Complete cells counts and levels of Vitamin D were measured in a group of patients with restless leg syndrome. Those that had low blood levels of Vitamin D were given supplements to bring their levels up to normal levels. The patients who received vitamin D supplements noted a clear reduction in the severity of their symptoms. The researchers conclude that vitamin D deficiency may be associated with restless leg syndrome.
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