Restless legs syndrome affects about 2 million people in Spain

The longest diagnostic delays of this disorder usually occur in the pediatric age: more than 10 years can elapse between the onset of symptoms and diagnosis.

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by the urgent need to move the legs, due to discomfort that appears or worsens in the evening in the extremities in situations of rest or inactivity. It can make it difficult to initiate or maintain sleep, impairing rest considerably. Although it is a very common pathology, which can affect up to 10% of the general population, it is still a little-known and highly underdiagnosed pathology. Tomorrow, September 23, World Restless Legs Syndrome Day is commemorated, with the aim of raising awareness about this disorder. also called Willis-Ekbom syndrome.

The Spanish Society of Neurology (SEN) calculates that in Spain there would be at least 2 million people affected by restless legs syndrome but that up to 90% of people who suffer from it could be undiagnosed. The fact that, in the vast majority of cases, the symptoms initially appear discreetly and sporadically, with mild discomfort, means that more than 10 years may elapse between the onset of symptoms and their diagnosis. When periods of worsening occur, in which the problem significantly interferes with the quality of life of those who suffer from it, it is generally when they are usually consulted about it.

Approximately 25% of patients who come to the Neurology consultation or to a Sleep Unit due to chronic insomnia problems are diagnosed with restless legs syndrome. “But restless legs syndrome is much more than a sleep disorder: when it is associated with chronic sleep deprivation, which leads to tiredness, performance problems and difficulty performing daily activities, cognitive alterations and changes in social relationships and relatives, this disorder causes a greater predisposition to develop anxiety-depressive disorders, high blood pressure, as well as other cardiovascular disorders, “he says. Ana Fernandez Arcos, Coordinator of the Sleep and Wake Disorders Study Group of the Spanish Society of Neurology. “For this reason, it is urgent to improve its diagnosis and social awareness of this disorder, since there are also effective treatments for many of these patients.”

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In some cases, restless legs syndrome may be related to iron deficiency or chronic kidney failure, may appear or worsen during pregnancy, may be caused by peripheral nerve injury, and also occurs with some frequency in people with chronic kidney disease. neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. In these cases, the treatment of restless legs syndrome will be directed at the cause that produces it.

However, in most patients there is no clear cause: it is what is called idiopathic or primary restless legs syndrome. However, there seems to be a certain genetic predisposition, since at least one third of patients have a family history. In addition, the latest research seems to point to a relationship with dopamine-related circuits. For this reason, the treatment of first choice for restless legs syndrome is dopaminergic agonist drugs that allow many patients, and in a few days, to achieve an improvement in sleep and quality of life.

“Despite this, up to 20% of patients suffer from a severe form of this disease and there is still a significant number of patients in whom it is more difficult to find an effective treatment regimen. In these cases, it becomes even more important that the evolution of the disease and its symptoms be properly monitored by a specialist with experience in the disorder”, he comments. Ana Fernandez Arcos. “On the other hand, leading a healthy lifestyle will be beneficial for all patients with this disorder: good sleep habits (regular sleep schedule, adequate sleep duration and in a quiet and comfortable sleep environment), exercise of regularly (such as practicing yoga), avoiding coffee and alcohol and, at the time symptoms occur, walking, cycling, getting massages and even compression on the affected area, can be non-pharmacological strategies that help improve your symptoms. symptom”.

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From the SEN it is recalled that, although restless legs syndrome is more frequent than debut from the fourth decade of life, it can start at any age. In fact, 25% of patients begin to experience symptoms of the disease in childhood or adolescence and, in severe cases, symptoms usually begin before the age of 20. Since it is estimated that restless legs syndrome affects 2-4% of European children and adolescents, it calls for a correct assessment of the presence of discomfort that may initially be attributed to growing pains or hyperactivity, since the longer diagnostic delays of This disorder usually occurs in childhood.

The Article Is In Spanish🡽

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