Working at a desk is a fact of life for many of us. The same is of course true for students who have to sit at a desk for hours. In the continuation of these long-term immobility situations, we start to move our legs involuntarily after a point. Sometimes, when we try to fall asleep, we get restless with a strange feeling in our legs and make similar movements.
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This condition, which is rare for most of us, is a fact of life for some people. Willis-Ekbom Disease, or restless legs syndrome (RLS) as it is more commonly known, is a common disorder characterized by a feeling of discomfort in the legs, accompanied by an irresistible urge to move the legs to relieve the sensations.
Restless legs syndrome affects both men and women of all ages. However, it is more common in women and older people.
About 35% of patients who report RLS say it started before the age of 20. This shows that this problem is common in children and adolescents. Therefore, it is important that teachers and parents are informed about the syndrome.
What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
The exact cause of restless leg syndrome varies from person to person. In some cases, the cause is unknown. Misdiagnosis is not unusual, as symptoms tend to come and go and can be quite mild. Many people with restless legs syndrome are thought to have a genetic link, as they have relatives who experience these feelings.
Restless legs syndrome has been linked to some medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. Research shows that this syndrome may also be associated with low levels of iron in the body. Also, some women experience restless leg syndrome during the last stages of pregnancy. However, the symptoms will disappear on their own within four weeks after giving birth.
The basal ganglia in our brain is responsible for our voluntary movements. Messages from this area to our muscles require the production of a chemical signal transporter called dopamine. However, when the production steps of dopamine, which uses iron in its synthesis, are interrupted due to iron deficiency, involuntary muscle movements may occur.
What are the Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?
The most common symptom is a feeling of discomfort that occurs while sitting or lying down and does not go away unless you move your legs. This is sometimes accompanied by cramps. Restless leg syndrome is often treated as a sleep disorder because the problem also makes it difficult to fall asleep.
Since problems falling asleep and maintaining sleep cause a person to be sleep deprived, if it is a child with the syndrome, problems may arise in the child’s academic performance or daytime behavior (irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, hyperactivity, etc.).
In young people with similar symptoms, the condition is often dismissed as being confused with “growing pains” or thought to be related to overexertion during physical activity. However, restless legs syndrome is a real condition that requires appropriate assessment, diagnosis and treatment.
How is restless leg syndrome treated?
For treatment, a definitive diagnosis is first necessary. Unfortunately, there is no specific diagnostic test for restless leg syndrome. It is diagnosed based on symptoms. A medical history and a complete physical examination are performed to exclude other possible health problems. A blood test will also be ordered to check the level of iron in the blood.
People who have these problems due to iron deficiency are recommended mineral supplements to raise iron levels. However, some lifestyle changes can also help to reduce mild or moderate symptoms. These include stopping or reducing your intake of caffeine, alcohol or tobacco.
Light exercise, such as walking or cycling, is also known to reduce symptoms. If the person with the problem is a child, any dietary supplements the child is taking, including herbal ones, should be reviewed. An unexpected food can cause the symptoms of this syndrome to appear. Some of these are known to be medicines that treat nausea, colds, allergies and depression.
The next time you see a student with fidgety legs, it is advisable to recognize this as a possible disturbance and to inform the parents, rather than as a reaction to not listening to the lesson.