Be aware, next time your child does not sleep in the night, or teachers report poor performance, it might be the first symptom of Restless Leg Syndrome.
Until a few years ago, I didn’t know what exactly was the problem with my poor mother who always complained about her legs itching and a burning sensation in the sole which at times almost got to her nerves. She shared it with so many people and even doctors whenever she had to go to one because of any health disorder but all of them reiterated the same old answer that her liver probably was malfunctioning. She desperately gulped those pills to get some relief but then nothing in the world could help her legs to remain calm. Mint massages, hot water bags, cold compress…. nothing under the sun has helped her till date.
I guess there are millions of people like my mother who are suffering from various sleep disorders…thanks to all the stress and strain that we indulge in everyday but few know the origin of these disorders and therefore very few try to solve it the way it should be.
Restless Leg Disorder (RLS) is one of the neurological disorders, which gives that creepy, crawly, itchy sensation which is accompanied with an uncontrollable urge to move the legs. The uneasiness aggravates in the later hours of the day and night and prevents the sufferer from sleeping. Therefore it is also known as “Disorder of the Evening”. Some experts also refer to it as “Ekbom’s Syndrome” but then others beg to differ. Some medical institutions believe that RLS does not exist as a separate entity; it’s associated with lumbosacral spinal subluxations or with heightened Sympathetic Nervous System.
RLS is commonly found in women and mostly who are more than fifty years of age. Of course some people do suffer from as early as childhood and that’s where it takes an interesting turn when people so young for diseases actually suffer from one such which is common to the point of being unnoticed and often undiagnosed. In fact in 40% of the patients RLS starts in adolescence and it is progressive which only augments.
In children RLS is particularly associated with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) that results due to hyperactivity or inattention, or for that matter we can also associate RLS with Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD).
Children with RLS show some behavioral symptoms like being offensive, absent-minded, uncontrollable and inability to sleep in the night. All these might be accompanied with pains and aches. All this might lead to think that the child is suffering from psychiatric disorders, which consequently in most of the cases leads to misdiagnosis. The suffering child might also face problems in breathing and depression.
There are a few symptoms that parents and teachers should be aware of and which should ring an alarm bell, though understanding them has always been a challenge since children are not that deft in communication.
First and foremost if the child is agitated in the evening and fails to get sleep continually. Secondly and most obvious if there is an RLS history in the family, like in the parents or siblings. They show nervousness and anxiety in the extreme.
In children RLS is mostly due to deficiency of iron though there can be various causes for adults to suffer. Genetic predisposition can also be a reason for children and in some cases it’s a combined effect that leads to it.
Precautions and Treatments
Now comes the most brainstormed and controversial part of this disease and this article since there are several opinions regarding this. One might ask why there are several opinions…its because RLS shows overlapping symptoms of PLMD and ADHD (both referred above in the article) so when time comes for medication medical practitioners basically experiment with us by trying all sorts of antidepressants (e.g., tricyclic antidepressants [TCAs], selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors [SSRIs]), sedating antihistamines, and dopamine receptor antagonists and levodopa/carbidopa, dopamine agonists (e.g., ropinirole, pramipexole), benzodiazepines (e.g., clonazepam), and alpha-adrenergics (e.g., clonidine).
As they have always said that “Precaution is better than cure”, that’s the golden rule to follow. Here are some of the self help tips
- Iron deficiency should be taken care of, if required food supplements and multivitamin tablets should always be consumed.
- A routine should be maintained as to when children should sleep and it should be stuck to by all means. The intake of fluids like tea, coffee, etc should be avoided.
As I discussed earlier the diagnosis and treatment of RLS is really not a cake walk, we should always be careful and when it comes to children it’s all the more crucial because restlessness is part of their conduct and they may not be able to tell us exactly what is happening resulting in furthermore confusion. Symptoms like anxiety, clumsiness, and social aloofness should be taken up seriously by surrounding adults.
Medications are surely there to help and at the risk of sounding real pessimistic, I would request whoever reads this article, should understand that there aren’t many medicines that solve the problem absolutely and actually and to top it all there are adverse effects of those medicines as well.
So here’s hoping that none of us lose “the blissful sleep”, especially those little angels.