Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED), or Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

May 7, 2019
Excess movement of the lower extremities could be a sign of restless legs syndrome (RLS). If you think you may be suffering from it, you should go see a doctor.

Believe it or not, the incessant urge to move one’s legs can be a symptom of a disease. If you experience the urge to move your lower limbs while you’re lying down, you may be suffering from Willis-Ekbom disease (WED) or restless legs syndrome (RLS).

The problem with this condition is that its cause is still unknown. However, it’s argued that it’s a neurological disorder and that 3% of the world’s population suffer from a severe form of it.

Willis-Ekbom Disease, or Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs.

Although there are some risk factors, its exact cause is currently unknown.

Some statistics indicate that nearly 10% of the world’s population manifest symptoms related to this condition. It’s also known that it affects both men and women of all ages. However, symptoms may intensify after the age of 40.

Anemia, renal failure, and some drugs can lead to the manifestation of this syndrome. Pregnancy can also cause it in women.

Currently, it’s believed that this condition is related to dopamine activation. This neurotransmitter is in charge of movement and coordination through the central nervous system.

This condition is divided into two types: primary and secondary. The former is considered with no known cause, while the latter is associated with other conditions.

This article may interest you: Restless Leg Syndrome: 7 Effective Treatments

Varied and Confusing Symptoms

Another problem with restless leg syndrome is that its symptoms are varied and hard to notice. In some cases, it only manifests with the urge to move one’s legs. However, this condition may have other annoying manifestations.

Some patients report discomfort and unpleasant sensations in their legs. Sometimes, this discomfort may turn into cramps and tingling. Since many of these symptoms manifest at night, they make it difficult to asleep.

This can lead to fatigue and drowsiness during the day. Moreover, this urge to move one’s legs is related to the circadian rhythm. This means that this condition usually worsens in the afternoons and evenings.

How to Identify Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED) or Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

A woman who can't sleep due to restless legs syndrome.

Patients with this condition tend to suffer from tingling and discomfort, in addition to poor sleep quality.

Here is a list of its symptoms and signs:

  • Urge to move one’s legs while resting. This condition must not be confused with a reflex or hyperactivity. In fact, these movements usually occur while resting.
  • Symptoms manifest at night. Most diagnosed patients don’t have the urge to move their legs during the day.
  • Nocturnal leg cramps. Periodic limb movements occur during sleep. This in and of itself is another condition associated with the syndrome. These nocturnal cramps can even occur  during sleep.
  • Movement leads to relief. Moving may relieve the tingling sensation, even if you’re experiencing itching, discomfort, or pain.

Read on: Learn to Alleviate Pain and Heaviness in Your Legs

Possible Treatments

First of all, if you feel discomfort, you should try to move your legs. It’s even advisable to get out of bed and walk for a few minutes. The downside is that this condition leads to poor quality of life due to the fact that those who suffer from it can’t get a good night’s sleep.

Thus, it’s necessary to try out different therapies and treatments to improve sleep quality. There are also psychological approaches with which you may experience some improvement. Some specialists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, because often this syndrome is related to psychological and emotional aspects.

Those who believe they’re suffering from restless legs syndrome should seek medical help. Although it may seem unimportant, the effects of these symptoms tend to worsen with age. Even if there is no diagnostic test, the condition should be addressed by a professional.

  • Sociedad española del sueño. Síndrome de las piernas inquietas. Extraído de: http://www.ses.org.es/docs/guias-spi.pdf
  • Medigraphic. 2007. Síndrome de las piernas inquietas: clínica, manejo y estudio polisomnográfico. Extraído de: http://www.medigraphic.com/pdfs/plasticidad/prn-2007/prn071_2d.pdf