Do you have trouble getting to sleep because of a strong urge to move your legs due to creepy-crawly or burning sensations? Up to 1 in 10 Australians have the 'jimmy legs' or restless leg syndrome (RLS).
The unpleasant symptoms of RLS are worst when sitting or lying down, especially in bed at night, and are relieved temporarily by moving the legs. The condition can cause severe sleep disruption and daytime fatigue.
RLS is thought to be caused by a shortage of a chemical called dopamine in the brain. It often runs in families and is more common with increasing age. RLS can also be caused by a lack of iron, kidney disease, pregnancy and certain medications.
How is RLS treated?
See your GP for a check-up if you have restless legs to rule out an underlying cause. Your doctor will also determine if any of your medications are responsible.
Cutting down on caffeine, nicotine and alcohol may also help improve RLS. Some other strategies include:
- Hot or cold baths.
- Massage or gentle stretching.
- Acupressure or relaxation techniques.
- Engrossing mental activities such as reading, crosswords and video games.
The role of medication
A variety of drugs have been used in more severe cases, including certain painkillers and drugs for Parkinson's disease and epilepsy. However, these medications are not registered for treating RLS in Australia.
The first medication specifically licensed in this country for RLS, ropinirole, has recently become available. Ropinirole corrects the chemical imbalance in the brain and is very effective in relieving the symptoms of RLS sufferers and in improving sleep. It is generally well tolerated, although it can cause nausea in some people.
Ask your GP for more information or contact RLS Australia: ring (02) 8250 6077 or visit http://www.rls.org.au/.
Please note this information was correct at time of printing.
For up to date information, speak to your doctor.