‘Debilitating’ restless leg syndrome could be a symptom of something far more serious

By Staff 7 Min Read

Dr Xand van Tulleken has warned that a ‘debilitating but misunderstood’ condition that affects one in 10 Brits should not be ignored as it can be a sign of far more serious health concerns

Dr Xand van Tulleken has spoken out about a ‘debilitating but misunderstood’ condition that affects one in 10 Brits – warning it should not be ignored as it can indicate more serious health issues.

On the BBC’s Morning Live, Dr Xand discussed restless legs syndrome, a common nervous system condition affecting millions in the UK. Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, triggers an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Symptoms include tingling, burning or itching sensations, a ‘creepy-crawly’ feeling, a sensation of fizzy water in your blood vessels, calf cramping, and difficulty sitting for extended periods.

The NHS states that these sensations often worsen in the evening or at night, and occasionally, the arms may also be affected. The condition is linked with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements (PLM). While some people experience symptoms of restless legs syndrome occasionally, others suffer daily. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, the condition can cause significant distress and disrupt daily activities.

Dr Xand has issued a stark warning about a common health issue that’s often overlooked, despite its potential to signal more severe conditions, reports Gloucestershire Live. He explained: “It affects one in 10 people and because it has this slightly funny name, it has not been taken very seriously by both the general public and by doctors.

“It can be really, really debilitating and it can also be a guide to other things that you might want to look into. It can predict lots of other health problems, so it really is worth getting on top of and taking seriously. Women are twice as likely to develop it as men. It is common in later life but you can get it in childhood.”

He added it can be a marker for ‘things like kidney failure, low iron, MS, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, it may be related to diabetes or auto-immune conditions and it can even be a sign of Parkinson’s’. “This is not to say if you’ve got restless leg syndrome you’ve definitely got one of those things but it is just a warning flag. It is really worth flagging up as a risk factor,” he added. “It is common one in 10 people have it and most of them don’t have an underlying people, but some people will do.”

Dr Xand noted that while many cases of restless legs syndrome have no clear cause, it can sometimes be linked to genetic factors or an underlying condition like iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure, which is referred to as secondary restless legs syndrome. If you’re struggling with it, Dr Xand advises initially eliminating other potential illnesses with your GP, including kidney disease, diabetes, and iron deficiency.

He also recommends evaluating your sleep quality and ensuring you’re not overindulging in alcohol or caffeine before hitting the sack. “Exercise seems to play a large role,” he added. “For a lot of people, exercise works (in reducing symptoms).” Stretching, baths, and massages are also on his list of helpful activities. Besides medication, there are gadgets like pneumatic pressure devices available, but Dr Xand cautions that these can be pricey and might not always yield the hoped-for outcomes.

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