Willis-Ekbom disease, or restless legs syndrome, is characterized by twitching, discomfort in the legs at rest, in a static position, and during sleep. Due to the fact that this condition can cause insomnia, it is considered as one of the sleep disorders. Statistics show that every tenth person on the planet, at least once, has experienced similar symptoms.
Restless Leg Syndrome: General Facts
Despite the complexity of the situation and a lot of unpleasant symptoms that affect the quality of sleep, home treatment and lifestyle changes are enough for many patients.
If we talk about the reasons, then doctors say that most often it is a combination of mental and physical factors that affect the patient over a period of time. Gender is also traced: it is women who are at risk, and during pregnancy, the symptoms only intensify and progress.
In clinical practice, it is customary to distinguish two main types of the syndrome: primary, which is also idiopathic, and secondary. Each of them has its own causes, features in manifestations and, of course, treatment.
Its causes are unknown, which is why it is often referred to as idiopathic. But, despite the lack of understanding of the cause, certain characteristics can be distinguished:
diagnosed in patients over 40 years old, but the first manifestations can be in childhood;
associated with a genetic factor;
may persist for life from the moment the first symptoms appear;
over time, the symptoms of pathology only intensify, become prolonged.
If the syndrome is provoked by other diseases, doctors call it secondary. As a rule, it begins in patients after 45 years, while the factor of heredity is more clearly traced. Doctors identify a number of causes and factors that can lead to its development:
serious kidney disease;
pregnancy is considered as a factor that enhances manifestations.
Even in the characteristic symptoms and manifestations, these two types of syndrome differ from each other in a number of key points.
This is a similar sleep disorder, which is characterized by periodic movements, twitches, jerks of the legs. Such manifestations make you wake up at night, so it’s not necessary to say that the dream is full.
In some literature sources, this condition is considered as a prerequisite for the development of restless legs syndrome.
Symptoms can affect not only the legs, but also numerous aspects of patients’ lives. It’s worth starting with the fact that symptoms can also appear during wakefulness, when patients are in a limited space: an airplane, a cinema, a car, etc.
Due to the fact that sleep cannot be called complete, and this is one of the causes of insomnia, the doctor can diagnose a number of conditions that interfere with a full life: loss of strength, increased fatigue, irritability, deterioration in concentration, etc.
It should be noted that insomnia and poor sleep quality are not only a predisposing factor, but also the cause of numerous pathologies and dangerous conditions: depression, decreased immune defense, numerous diseases of internal organs, infections, etc.
Patients can describe their feelings in different ways: strange and unpleasant sensations in the legs, arms, accompanied by a strong desire to change position. In addition, other manifestations may appear:
the passage of electric current through the legs and arms;
tingling and burning.
The only way to get rid of such unpleasant sensations is to change your posture, move. Symptoms can also appear during moments of inactivity, such as lying in front of the TV, and not just in a dream. Manifestations can worsen significantly in the evening, at night, sometimes in the morning.
Complicating the situation is the fact that symptoms can worsen over time, but there can be long periods without showing any symptoms.
What treatment do doctors recommend?
If the symptoms that appear interfere with proper sleep, cause serious inconvenience and cause a deterioration in the condition, the doctor may prescribe a number of medications:
iron preparations. Medications are prescribed only after a clinical blood test and determination of the level of iron in the blood. Taking iron supplements, especially during pregnancy, can significantly reduce the manifestations of the syndrome;
alpha‑2 agonists work by influencing periodic limb movements during sleep;
ibuprofen-based drugs can relieve mild symptoms associated with pain;
anticonvulsants. Able to reduce pain, muscle spasms, as well as manifestations during the day. Only a doctor can prescribe such medicines after a thorough study;
sedatives that normalize sleep;
drugs that increase dopamine levels.
In addition to the prescribed medications, the doctor can give general advice that can reduce the manifestations of the syndrome and make life easier for patients. Among them are the following methods:
warm bath, massage. Relaxation treatments allow you to relax and reduce the intensity of symptoms;
warm, cold compresses. Patients report that alternating heat and cold before bed helps to relax and reduce symptoms;
relaxation and various practices: yoga, meditation, etc.;
some type of exercise.
Good sleep is extremely important, and patients with restless leg syndrome should take care to follow certain rules. These include:
compliance with the temperature regime in the sleep room: dark, cool and enough fresh air;
go to bed and wake up at the same time;
it is not recommended to watch TV before going to bed, especially political programs, action films and horror films;
in the evening, stimulating drinks should be avoided: coffee, strong tea, especially energy drinks and alcohol.
Also, doctors do not advise to be zealous with training at night. Physical activity is important, but with restless legs syndrome, evening activity can only increase the manifestation of unwanted and unpleasant symptoms.