What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless Legs Syndrome: Desperate for Help – what causes it and is there a cure?

It's is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease

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Channel 5’s documentary Restless Legs Syndrome: Desperate for Help airs on tonight (June 23), but just what is it?

Is there a cure and is there a way to ease symptoms?

One in 10 of us will suffer with the condition at some point in our lives.

Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
The condition affects one in 10 people (Credit: Pixabay)

What is restless legs syndrome?

We all get a bit jittery after sitting still for too long, but some people experience an irresistible urge to move their legs.

It can seriously affect their daily lives.

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Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a common condition of the nervous system.

What are the symptoms?

The condition causes sufferers to have an overwhelming urge to move their legs.

It can also cause an unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the feet, calves and thighs.

The sensation is often worse in the evening or at night.

Occasionally, the arms are affected, too.

It’s also associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS).

The symptoms can vary from mild to severe.

In severe cases, restless legs syndrome can be very distressing and disrupt a person’s daily activities.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?
Channel 5 documentary Restless Legs Syndrome: Desperate for Help looks at the unusual condition (Credit: Channel 5)

What causes restless legs syndrome?

Most of the time, there’s no obvious cause.

This is known as idiopathic or primary restless legs syndrome.

The condition can run in families.

Some neurologists believe the symptoms may have something to do with how the body handles a chemical called dopamine.

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Dopamine is involved in controlling muscle movement.

It may be responsible for the involuntary leg movements associated with the syndrome.

Sometimes, restless legs can be caused by an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure.

There’s also a link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy.

In fact, women are twice as likely to develop restless legs syndrome as men.

And it’s more common in middle age.

Is there a cure?

There is no cure as such, but the condition can be treated.

Mild cases can be eased by adopting good sleep habits and avoiding caffeine, nicotine and alcohol.

Exercising regularly may also help.

If your symptoms are more severe, you may need medication to regulate the levels of dopamine and iron in your body.

The condition is not life threatening, but severe cases can disrupt sleep and trigger anxiety and depression.

Restless Legs Syndrome: Desperate for Help on Channel 5

This C5 documentary meets people with a compulsion to constantly move their feet.

It’s a condition so severe for some that they want to have their legs chopped off.

Cameras follow the pensioner who contemplates suicide due to severe sleep deprivation caused by his tingling legs.

Viewers also meet a sufferer who is housebound due to the embarrassment of her wriggling legs.

Restless Legs Syndrome: Desperate for Help airs on Wednesday June 23 at 8pm on Channel 5.

The charity Restless Leg Syndrome UK provides information and support for people affected by the condition.

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