Restless Legs Syndrome
An uncomfortable feeling of needing to move the legs is known as restless legs syndrome. Occasionally the condition may also involve the arms. It can cause sudden jerking motions of the legs and can occur during sleep, leading to insomnia. It is most common in middle-aged women, pregnant women, and people with severe kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and nerve diseases (neuropathy). Restless legs have also been reported to occur in persons with varicose veins and to be relieved when the varicose veins are treated.
Lifestyle changes that may be helpful: One study reports that restless legs syndrome resolved in a 70-year-old woman after she stopped smoking. Although additional research is needed to confirm this report, a trial of smoking cessation seems prudent for people who suffer from restless legs.
Dietary changes that may be helpful: Uncontrolled studies of large groups of people with reactive hypoglycemia have reported that 8% have restless legs. These symptoms usually improved following dietary modifications designed to regulate blood-sugar levels changes included a sugar-free, high-protein diet along with frequent snacking and at least one night-time feeding. For patients with reactive hypoglycemia, doctors often recommend elimination of sugar, refined flour, caffeine, and alcohol from the diet; eating small, frequent meals; and eating whole grains, nuts and seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, and fish. Another study confirmed the relationship between caffeine ingestion and restless legs.
Nutritional supplements that may be helpful: Mild iron deficiency has been shown to exist in many people, particularly the elderly, who have restless legs syndrome. Iron deficiency may be present even in individuals who are not anemic; the deficiency may be detected by a blood test called “serum ferritin.” When iron deficiency is the cause of restless legs syndrome, supplementation with iron will reduce the severity of the symptoms. In one study, 200 mg of ferrous sulfate, taken three times a day for two months, was helpful for individuals with restless legs syndrome. However, not everyone needs iron, and taking too much can lead to adverse effects. Therefore, iron supplementation should be monitored by a physician.
In a subset of individuals with restless legs syndrome, the condition is familial (i.e., it runs in the family). Individuals with familial restless legs syndrome appear to have inherited an unusually high requirement for folic acid. Although not all people with restless legs syndrome suffer from uncomfortable sensations, folate-deficient individuals with this condition always do. In one report, 45 people were identified to be from families with folic acid–responsive restless legs syndrome. The amount of folic acid required to relieve their symptoms ranged from 5 to 30 mg per day, which is considerably more than the amount found in the diets or in nutritional supplements.
Vitamin E has been found to improve restless legs syndrome in several case reports. In a group of nine people with restless legs syndrome, 300 IU of vitamin E per day produced complete relief in seven. Often, at least 400 IU of vitamin E per day are recommended, and the full benefits of vitamin E for restless legs syndrome may not become apparent for as long as three months.
Checklist for Restless Legs Syndrome
Iron (for deficiency)
See also: Homeopathic Remedies for Restless Legs Syndrome
Kalin N Jerking of legs in bed
Ars, Ign, Kali-c On falling asleep
Cimi: Side lain on
Onos: Side not laid on
Has the patient an intense urge to move their legs – an urge that is impossible to ignore
Is it worse when resting
Does the pain get better when the legs are moved
Is the condition worse at night
The patient has low levels of dopamine, a brain chemical that helps control movement. As a result of lack of dopamine, the nerves become irritated and fire off signals which cause pain and discomfort (Professor K. Ray Chaudhuri, a neurologist. Additionally, dopamine levels fall at night, which is why symptoms worsen. There is generally a genetic link to the condition, including one that controls the way the body metabolises iron (the body needs iron in order to produce dopamine)
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