Restless legs syndrome, what it is and how to treat it

There are many occasions in which parents face the problem of sleep or, rather, insomnia of their children. In most cases this difficulty in rest is solved with the passage of time. But at other times these problems do not remit and end up transforming themselves into questions that also take away the parents' sleep. One of these problems that make it difficult to sleep in children is the so-called "restless legs syndrome".

The Spanish Association of Pediatrics, AEPED, defines restless legs syndrome as a disorder characterized by the need to continuously move the legs while the person is at rest. This organism also warns of the unpleasant sensation that occurs in the patient below the knees and that although it occurs more frequently in adults, there are also cases in children.


Why does the restless legs syndrome occur?

The exact causes that give rise to the appearance of restless legs syndrome are unknown. However, it could be caused by genetic causes because 70% of the children and adolescents who suffer from it have a first-degree relative who also has this disorder. The AEPED points out that if these antecedents exist the symptoms of this syndrome of restless legs in children appear many years of the usual in these clinical cases.

The diagnosis of this disorder is not easy because children do not understand the symptoms they suffer as a disease, but only feel that they need to move their limbs to calm a discomfort. Therefore parents should be alert to several symptoms that may be the indication that you have to go to a professional to study if the child actually suffers from restless legs syndrome. These symptoms are:


- The child's need to continually move his legsto calm a discomfort that appears when it is at rest. Although in most cases the movement happens in the legs, it can also manifest in the arms.

- Discomfort in the lower limbs tothey seem when the child is at rest.

- Worsening of symptoms in the last hours of the day. The child feels that this discomfort is aggravated at the time of going to bed.

All these symptoms have a great impact on the quality of life of the child and the fact that it occurs mostly when it is at rest and especially at bedtime, makes this disorder can cause insomnia. At the same time this condition can lead to a deficit of attention in the child since the continuous movement to calm their discomfort causes their concentration to focus on this imperious activity that must be done to relieve themselves.


How is restless legs syndrome diagnosed?

As has already been said, the diagnosis of restless legs syndrome is difficult because the child does not understand that this need to move his limbs is a disease. For this reason, the parents, before the manifestation of these symptoms, must go to a professional to submit the child to a study to assess whether this disorder is present in the child. This diagnosis can be supported in:

- Family medical history: If there is a family history who has been diagnosed with this disorder, the chances of the child actually having this syndrome increase.

- Physical and analytical exploration: Performing a physical study of the child and some blood tests will help rule out other possibilities that cause this need to move the limbs in children.

- Dream diaries: Keeping track of the sleep in the little ones will help to know more thoroughly what happens once the child goes to bed. This will help the doctor have more information when diagnosing this case.

Treatment for restless legs syndrome

Once this disorder is diagnosed it is important to take some measures to help the child from home and support medical treatment. First of all, the school should be warned of this disorder since the stillness in the desk can cause a worsening, so some activity and changes in posture should be allowed. Regarding the life inside the child's home, the following practices should be implemented:

- Limit the consumption of chocolate and the consumption of stimulant drinks that contain caffeine such as cola drinks and other sugary drinks.

- Establish regular sleep schedules that help the child to establish some uses and customs at the time of going to bed.

- Avoid some drugs as for example the antihistamines that can alter the child even more.

The doctor can also start an iron treatment if it is detected that the disorder is caused by the lack of this mineral in the body.It is also important that before a worsening of this syndrome, you go to a sleep disorder specialist so that you can perform a more thorough examination and apply the child an individualized treatment.

Damián Montero

Video: Restless Legs Syndrome and Sleep - Diagnosis and Treatments


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