Is Restless Legs Syndrome Genetic?
If you have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs and uncomfortable sensations in your legs then you could be suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome. Restless Legs Syndrome, also known as RLS, is characterized as a neurological sleeping disorder because it generally sets in at night and during periods of rest. There are many questions about restless legs syndrome, but one of the biggest questions is “is restless legs syndrome genetic?” The answer to that question is a resounding “maybe.” Around half of all people who suffer from restless legs do have some kind of family history with the condition. Researchers have found several genetic variants that could increase the chances of developing restless legs too.
One study in particular followed 671 people with restless legs syndrome. The study followed these people – and their families – for 15 years to see if the condition was genetic. The people with a family history of restless legs were 3.6 times more likely to develop the condition than the general public. While the exact cause of restless legs remains a mystery – though low iron levels is one of the biggest risk factors – there’s certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that it could be genetic. With only around half of all people having some family tie to the condition though, it’s not like every child born to a restless legs sufferer will get the condition.
Talking to Your Family About Restless Legs
If you’ve been diagnosed with restless legs syndrome then you might want to talk to your family about it. Keep an eye on your children and see if they develop the symptoms themselves. Research shows people with anemia or arthritis and pregnant women are more likely to develop genetic restless legs syndrome. Those who are at greater risk should be extra vigilant about developing the signs and symptoms associated with RLS. There are several restless legs treatment options out there, including iron supplements, that offer quick and effective relief.
Parents will have an easier time supporting their children with their restless legs if they better understand the cause. Being able to spot, diagnose, and treat restless legs early on could help to eliminate the symptoms. At the very least, early treatment will provide more relief from symptoms.
There are several symptoms of RLS, but the main one is uncomfortable sensations in the legs. People who suffer from RLS describe the sensation as being a burning, creeping, crawling, or tugging feeling inside the legs. The feelings often occur in the lower leg, but they can also occur in feet, in the upper legs, and – in some cases – in hands and arms.
The symptoms of restless legs are most noticeable during the evening and at moments of rest. They tend to strike as a person is trying to sleep and they subside in the morning. Given that moving around can help to relieve the pain and pressure of RLS, people with the condition say they have an uncontrollable urge to move their legs. Common signs that children have the condition include;
- Night-time pacing
- Constantly move legs when sitting
- Tossing and turning during the night
Some parents confuse the symptoms of restless legs with conditions such as ADHD. Getting an accurate diagnosis for what could be wrong with your child is paramount to ensuring they get the right treatment for their needs. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the symptoms your child has and be as clear as possible. Your doctor can help to determine the truth behind their condition.
Restless Leg Syndrome Treatment Strategies
Unfortunately, there is no cure for restless legs syndrome right now. The symptoms of the condition also tend to worsen as a person gets older. The good news is that there are still treatment options available. These treatments help to manage the condition and make life more comfortable for a restless legs sufferer. These treatments include;
- Determining the Cause
The cause of restless legs can often be identified. The condition may be caused by something such as anemia, diabetes, or peripheral neuropathy. For these cases, treating underlying conditions can sometimes lead to a better quality of life for an RLS sufferer.
- Lifestyle Changes
RLS symptoms can be managed by making some simple lifestyle changes. Cut back on alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Consider supplementing iron, folate, and magnesium. Adopt healthy sleeping habits such as having consistent bedtime and wake time. Use therapies like hot and cold therapies and leg massage. These are all little things that can add up to a big difference in RLS symptoms.
Some medications have proven to be effective at controlling RLS. Dopaminergic drugs, opioids, and benzodiazepines have been shown to reduce restless legs syndrome symptoms for some people. Talk to your doctor about possible medical treatments.
How to Manage Restless Legs at Home
There are plenty of things that you can do at home to better manage your symptoms. Here are ten top tips on how to manage restless legs at home;
- Avoid smoking, drinking, and having caffeine in the evening
- Review your medications, including prescription medications, with a doctor
- Exercise regularly
- Stretch at the start and end of the day
- Get leg massages – or give yourself one
- Avoid heavy meals in the evening
- Keep to a regular sleeping schedule
- Avoid napping
- Only use the bed for sleeping and sex
- Let your bed be a place of rest; don’t let yourself get caught up in worries and fears while trying to sleep
The Genetics of Restless Legs Syndrome
Doctors and researchers continue to look into the genetics of restless legs and how genes could be involved in the development of the condition. The hope is that, as research progresses, we’ll be able to develop better treatment strategies, if not a cure.