Have you ever seen someone who is sleeping and their legs are moving around continuously? Maybe you thought this was something like sleep walking or “swimming in your sleep”. We may find it funny but, what is often mistaken as a joke is a serious condition called Restless Legs Syndrome. If you have seen this same sleeping situation before, do not just ignore it. The person suffering from this condition may not be aware of these movements and may badly need your help with their sleeping behavior. This condition is normally the result of a restless leg syndrome, (RLS) or what is also referred to as “Jimmy Legs”, “Jumpy Legs”, “Heebeejeebees” or “Jimmy Jams”. In more scientific terminology, this syndrome of restless legs is also known as the “Ekbom syndrome”, “ Wittmaack-Ekbom syndrome” or “anxietas tibialis”.

The movements associated with restless leg syndrome are sometimes described as orchestra, spare legs, "the kicks" or sewing machine foot and are caused by an uncontrollable urge to move the limbs in order to stop the feeling of uncomfortable pain or unusual sensations in a person’s body. These occur most of the time in the legs. Moving the affected body part relieves a person’s suffering from restless leg syndrome but the sensations only stop temporarily and may return immediately. RLS may start in early childhood and is a progressive disorder especially if it is not given medical attention immediately. It is still good news for many who are suffering from this condition that the treatment provides positive results as symptoms have been shown to disappear permanently once the treatment begins.

It is important to know the types of restless leg syndrome in order to easily diagnose it. RLS is either primary or secondary. Primary RLS is considered idiopathic, meaning its causes are not yet known or scientifically determined by medical researchers. Primary RLS begins before you reach the age of 40 or 45. It can even occur as early as the first year of life but the progress is often slow and may be observed to disappear for a couple of months or even a few years. It often continues to progress later on and worsens as the person reaches the age of 40 to 45. On the other hand, RLS among children has often been misdiagnosed as growing pains and this has lead to more serious complications for the growing teen.

The more severe type of restless leg syndrome is secondary RLS. This problem shows itself on a daily basis and can attack in very sudden situations. Most of the time, it occurs after the age of 40. However, it can occur earlier in life just like with the primary RLS. Research and clinical studies suggest that the symptoms of secondary RLS may be associated with specific medical conditions such as iron deficiency or the use of certain drugs. It was also found that a person who is iron deficient is more prone to acquire secondary RLS. As a matter of fact, statistics showed a rate of over 20% of all cases of RLS to be caused by this deficiency. Other conditions which are associated with it include pregnancy, having varicose veins especially among women, folate deficiency, sleep apnea, diabetes, thyroid problems, uremia, Parkinson's disease, peripheral neuropathy, and certain auto-immune disorders like Celiac Disease, Sjögren's syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Again, treatment of the underlying condition often eliminates the RLS.

Scientists admit that, up to this moment, no one knows for sure the exact causes of RLS. Research on the dopaminergic system and iron deficiency in human bodies has already been established which may eventualy be found to be an essential cofactor in the development of RLS. Scientists, however, still cannot determine an accurate explanation for this problem.

A Lifestyle change and other self-discipline approaches can help in the decrease of the known symptoms. For instance, people should take time to experiment about their lifestyles and try to determine what changes could be made to eliminate their RLS symptoms. Sometimes a simple change such as exercise can tend to make a big difference. Finding the appropriate and best exercise plus eliminating caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, may help to eliminate RLS symptom attacks. Whatever the case, it is good to be aware of this problem if it affects you and to learn as much as you can about it so that you may attempt to alleviate it and return to a more normal lifestyle in the near future.


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