If you have an uncomfortable feeling, tingling, pulling or cramping in your legs when you are at rest, you may have restless leg syndrome. An ailment that two million people suffer from in our country and that is associated with sleep problems (insomnia) and with the disease of periodic movements of the legs during sleep. And it is that this neurological disorder, also known as Willis syndrome- Ekbom, is characterized by the urgent need to move the legs and appears or worsens at nightfall, which is why it usually makes it difficult to start or maintain sleep, considerably impairing rest. In fact, 25 percent of patients who come to the Neurology consultation or to a Sleep Unit for chronic insomnia problems are diagnosed with restless legs syndrome. Associated disorders “But restless legs syndrome is much more than a sleep disorder: when associated with chronic sleep deprivation, which leads to tiredness, performance problems and difficulty performing daily activities, cognitive alterations and changes in social and family relationships, this disorder causes a greater predisposition to develop anxiety disorders -depressives, high blood pressure, as well as other cardiovascular-type disorders”, said the coordinator of the Sleep and Wake Disorders Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology, Ana Fernández Arcos. In the vast majority of cases, Symptoms initially manifest discreetly and sporadically, with mild discomfort. This means that more than 10 years can elapse between the onset of symptoms and their diagnosis. Thus, when periods of worsening occur, in which the problem significantly interferes with the quality of life of those who suffer from it, it is generally when the doctor is usually consulted. Effective treatments Experts insist on the need to improve diagnosis and social awareness of this disorder, since there are also effective treatments for many of these patients. And it is that, in some cases, restless legs syndrome can be related to iron deficiency or chronic kidney failure, it can appear or worsen during pregnancy, it can be caused by a peripheral nerve injury and it also manifests itself with some frequency in people with neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. In these cases, the treatment of restless legs syndrome will be directed at the cause that produces it. However, in most patients there is no clear cause: it is what is called idiopathic or primary restless legs syndrome. However, there seems to be a certain genetic predisposition, since at least a third of patients have a family history. The latest research seems to point to a relationship with dopamine-related circuits. For this reason, the treatment of first choice for restless legs syndrome is dopaminergic agonist drugs that allow many patients, and in a few days, to achieve an improvement in sleep and quality of life. The benefits of healthy living Neurologists remind that leading a healthy lifestyle will be beneficial for all patients with this disorder: good sleep habits (regular sleep schedule, adequate sleep duration, and a quiet and comfortable sleep environment), regular exercise (such as practicing yoga), avoiding coffee and alcohol and, at the time symptoms occur, walking, cycling, getting massages and even compression on the affected area, can be non-pharmacological strategies that help improve your symptoms. SEN reminds you that, although restless legs syndrome is more common in the fourth decade of life, it can start at any age. In fact, 25 percent of patients begin to experience symptoms of the disease in childhood or adolescence, and in severe cases, symptoms often begin before the age of 20. In the case of children, neurologists place the emphasis on correctly assessing the presence of discomfort that can initially be attributed to growing pains or hyperactivity, since the longest diagnostic delays for this disorder usually occur in children.
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