Restless legs syndromeSleep disorders
Restless legs syndrome
What is it ?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is characterised by an irrepressible need to move one’s legs in the evening or at bedtime. In 80% of cases, it is combined with periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).
This urge to move one’s legs is caused by unpleasant sensations (dysaesthesia) in the lower limbs, or sometimes in the arms, such as :
- Electric shocks
These phenomena usually appear in the evening when resting.
What causes RLS ?
The causes of restless legs syndrome remain largely unknown.
Nevertheless, several hypotheses have been put forward as to its origins.
Causes of primary RLS (idiopathic)
Primary RLS means there is no known cause for the condition. In this case, there tends to be a genetic component that induces a lack or imbalance of neurotransmitters, specifically dopamine. In 40-60% of cases, patients with idiopathic RLS have a family history. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age.
Causes of secondary RLS
Secondary restless legs syndrome occurs when it is associated with another condition or circumstance known to cause or aggravate RLS.
The following causes have been identified :
The syndrome usually disappears by restoring the subject’s iron status.
Side effects of drugs
Such as antidepressants or antipsychotics.
1 in 5 pregnant women develop restless legs syndrome (especially in late pregnancy). The symptoms of RLS disappear after birth.
Link to other conditions
Such as chronic renal failure, polyneuropathy, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes or thyroid problems.
What are the consequences of RLS ?
Restless legs syndrome has a significant impact on the quality of sleep and, more generally, the quality of life of the subject and their spouse.
Indeed, insomnia is one of the most frequent complications of RLS, as it may cause difficulties in falling asleep as well as disturb sleep continuity.
In the long term, significant fatigue can set in during the day and lead to daytime sleepiness, difficulties in concentrating or mood disorders.