Restless Legs Syndrome - When the legs do not rest

The day was stressful. Finally stretch out in bed and sleep - what you've been looking forward to for some time. But instead of relaxation, frustration awaits. The legs do not want to give rest, burn and tingle. Almost one in ten Germans knows this situation. Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is one of the most common neurological conditions. Learn here how RLS develops, what effects it has on the body and psyche and what therapy can help.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Although the symptoms of the widespread restless legs syndrome were first described in the 17th century, it is often not recognized or recognized late. The symptoms are typical: they occur especially when the person concerned comes to rest and wants to relax, so preferably in the evening after lying down. The legs tingle, burn, pull, tear, twitch and hurt. It is also characteristic that the discomfort always improves by getting up and moving.

It is estimated that about 8 million Germans are affected; Women more often than men, older people more often and heavier than younger people.

Aggravating circumstances for restless legs

Those affected often do not feel taken seriously - for the healthy, it's hard to imagine that a tingling in the legs, which improves by movement, can be very stressful. In addition, the symptoms also occur in other diseases, so that the doctor often sets the correct diagnosis late. One of the most common misdiagnoses is polyneuropathy, a condition of the peripheral nervous system that is common in diabetes.

But also venous diseases, Parkinson's disease or Lyme disease are falsely suspected as culprits. And not infrequently the symptoms are rated as psychosomatic. So it is hardly surprising that depression can occur as a late consequence - which in turn gives rise to further misdiagnosis.

How does RLS express itself?

There are a number of symptoms that lead to the diagnosis of the disease. The main complaint is the burning, tingling and pulling at rest, which is felt rather deep in the muscles and bones, usually begins in both legs below (less often the poor) and moves upward and is accompanied by urge to move. The latter forces the person concerned to constantly move or massage his legs. Many have to get up and "umhertigern".

The symptoms usually improve immediately with exercise. However, as the disease duration increases, it must take longer and be stronger to achieve the desired effect.

In addition, muscle twitching and spontaneous movements of the extremities occur both while asleep and when awake. Especially in the evening and at night, the sufferer suffers from the symptoms, and later increasingly over the day. Due to the constant lack of sleep it comes in the long run to concentration and sleep disorders, exhaustion and slowing down, aggression and depression and even cardiac arrhythmias.

How does Restless Legs Syndrome develop?

It is estimated that about 40 percent of the cases are inherited (primary form), as they are common in some families. The secondary form, on the other hand, is caused by other triggers. These include iron and folic acid deficiency, hormonal disorders (especially thyroid disease) and kidney failure.

Even in the last third of the pregnancy many women suffer from RLS. The secondary forms also believe that there are certain genetic traits that make one suffer from RLS but the other does not.

The exact disease mechanism is so far only suspected. Scientists assume that disorders of the "dopaminergic system" exist. Dopamine is a messenger substance on nerves in the brain, which sits down at certain receptors and triggers reactions. If these "stimulus recipients" changed, it can lead to overreaction or to increased arousal.

What helps against RLS?

The diagnosis is made exclusively on the symptoms of the symptoms - the neurological examinations are inconspicuous. No cure is yet possible, that is, the treatment is limited only to alleviating the symptoms and the therapy of any underlying disease.

Options include regular physical exercise such as:

  • Cycle
  • Swimming and endurance sports
  • Brush massages and cold or alternating showers of the legs
  • Relaxation methods and stress reduction

Also alternative medical procedures such as chiropractic of the spine, homeopathy, neural therapy or magnetic therapy can help. Some patients report that abstaining from caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol relieves the symptoms. Drugs are enzymes, vitamin B, L-dopa, in severe cases tranquilizers are used.

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