Restless leg syndrome (RLS): Wittmaack-Ekbom’s syndrome

According to a poll on ThisIsMS.Com , more than 50% of people with Multiple Sclerosis who participated in this poll reported having restless legs syndrome, or, RLS.
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PhotobucketDo You Have Restless Leg Syndrome?
Poll Results:
Yes – 54.72% (673)
No – 19.51% (240)
Maybe – 12.36% (152)
What is RLS? – 13.41% (165)
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Wittmaack-Ekbom’s syndrome Is basically an uncontrollable urge to move one’s legs. Sound ridiculous? Tell that to someone with RLS, because as silly as it might sound, it is a horrible condition that can lead to sleeping problems or sleep deprivation!
It has been described as a burning, tingling, “creepy crawley” sensation in the legs that only goes away when the legs are moved. I personally would describe it otherwise, to me it’s more like the feeling of needing to stretch your legs in the morning. You stretch your legs and the sensation goes away but with RLS no matter what you do, that sensation does not go away.
My History with RLS
About a year ago I had my first encounter with RLS which lasted about a month. I found that when laying or sitting down I couldn’t keep my legs still even if I shook them vigorously. I would pace the house or front yard for half an hour at a time just tearing my hair out, it was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced! When I spoke to my mother about it she had told me that her aunt had also dealt with restless leg syndrome, she heard it might be hereditary and that it could possibly never go away… This disturbed me greatly for at the time the RLS did not affect me just at night as it does with most people but it affected me all day! Luckily, after about a month it tapered off.
A year later when I was diagnosed with MS and started fighting my first exacerbation, my restless leg syndrome came back with a vengeance! It was far worse than before! This time however it only affected me at night when I tried to lay down to go to sleep, this is when most people feel the effects of RLS. I would lay down as early as eight o’clock and not fall asleep till about four o’clock in the morning because I was kicking my legs all night… I would feel physically exhausted, my eye grew heavier than they had ever been, but still, my legs kept me awake like someone continuously poking me in the face while trying to take a nap. I felt exhausted all day because I was only getting a few hours of sleep, I tried every home remedy in the book, home remedies that had worked for me in the past, but nothing helped… Finally I was prescribed Clonazepam, an anti-seizure medication, problem solved! No more restless leg syndrome! Helps me sleep great as well!
Home Remedies
There are many home remedies for relieving restless leg syndrome, I’m going to list a few that I found helped me in the past.
  1. Warm Bath – This is supposed to help relax your muscles, take a warm bath before bedtime to help relax your overall body, unwind for the night. This is no longer an option for me due to my MS, heat is bad! So if you have multiple you can rule this one out!
  2. Tiger balm – I read somewhere that rubbing Tiger balm on your legs can help relieve RLS, When I was dealing with my exacerbation related RLS this did not help me much because I was numb on the right side of my body so I couldn’t feel the tiger balm, however, it did feel like it was helping my left leg where I wasn’t numb. This one is definitely worth a try, apply a generous amount!
  3. Bar of Soap – Okay call me crazy if you want, I know I would call you crazy if you told me this, but place a bar of Ivory soap under your sheets, I don’t know how or why it works but look into it yourself on the Internet, everyone swears by it! And for the longest time when my RLS was not too, too, bad it really did help!

    At first I thought it might just be a mental thing, like a placebo, but my mother’s friend also had trouble with RLS at night and as soon as she tried the bar of soap thing her problems went away! Then one night she noticed her RLS was back, she checked her sheets and the bar of soap was gone! Her husband had taken it out because they ran out of soap in the bathroom, she replaced it and once again was relieved of her RLS!
    I have yet to research the scientific explanation for this home remedy, I actually don’t want to in case it actually is all in our heads. If it works it works real or not. The most scientific fact I can tell you about this is that you supposed to stay away from “The D’s” such as Dove, Dial, etc. Just stick with Ivory, I think it has something to do with the natural ingredients they use. I know it sounds ridiculous, but seriously, give it a try! And make sure you replace your bar of soap with a new one every month or so, apparently the effects can actually wear off!
Medications
As I mentioned above, after my RLS got really bad with my first MS exacerbation, my home remedies no longer worked and I had to get medication to relieve me of my misery. The medications used to treat RLS do not cure the actual problem, they just relieve the symptoms.
My Medication: Clonazepam
PhotobucketClonazepam is an benzodiazepine which works by decreasing abnormal electrical activity in the brain. It is used to treat certain types of seizures, Panic attacks, and sometimes restless leg syndrome, and let me tell you, so far it’s working great!
CLICK HERE to visit Google Health’s description of the drug.
Other Types of Medications
There are many other types of medications used to treat restlessly syndrome, they include but are not limited to: dopaminergic agents, benzodiazepines, opioids and, anticonvulsants. Here is an excerpt from Web MD describing the types of medications used to treat RLS:

Dopaminergic agents: These drugs, including Sinemet — a combination of levodopa and carbidopa — increase the level of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain and may improve leg sensations in RLS. Side effects may include nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and involuntary movements (dyskinesias).

  • Dopamine agonists: Instead of actually increasing the level of dopamine, these drugs (Permax, Parlodel, Mirapex, and Requip) act like dopamine in the brain. Side effects include daytime sleepiness.
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines, such as Restoril, Xanax, and Klonopin, are sedatives. They do not so much relieve symptoms as help you sleep through the symptoms.
  • Opiates: These drugs are most often used to treat pain, but they can also relieve RLS symptoms. Because opiates are very addictive, they are usually used only when other drugs don’t work. Examples include Darvon and Vicodin.
  • Anticonvulsants: These agents, such as Neurontin, may help relieve pain, neuropathy, and the symptoms of RLS.
  • Alpha2 agonists: These agents stimulate alpha2 receptors in the brain stem. This activates nerve cells (neurons) that “turn down” the part of the nervous system that controls muscle movements and sensations. The drug Catapres is an example. “

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?
The exact cause of RLS is actually unknown, though there is evidence that it can be genetically related, the disease can be inherited through family genetics.

Secondary (or symptomatic) RLS is usually related to another medical issue or the use of a drug.

Things to Avoid: 
Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine are all known to exacerbate the symptoms of restless leg syndrome so avoid these products at all cost! Is any of it really worth it?

Talk to Your Doctor!
 If you are dealing with restless leg syndrome and you are losing sleep then go talk to your doctor! Why suffer when there are many options available to help reduce the horrible symptoms of RLS? If you have any questions regarding restless legs syndrome feel free to e-mail me at Mattalleng@yahoo.com, I will do my best to find you an answer!

6 thoughts on “Restless leg syndrome (RLS): Wittmaack-Ekbom’s syndrome

  • December 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm
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    I found this very helpful! However, I have been having the same symptoms on and off since I was a small child. But it is getting worse. I can't sleep most night, and I can't focus on anything because I am so tired. I am now getting that feeling all over my body…even my face where I constantly feel like blinking and such. Is this still considered Restless Leg syndrome, or is it more serious?

    Reply
  • December 4, 2010 at 3:12 am
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    Sounds way more serious, you DEFINITELY want to talk to your doctor ASAP, they will most likely put you on an anti-anxiety / anti-seizure medication such as the Clonazepam that I am currently on.

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  • September 19, 2011 at 2:26 pm
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    My doctor put me on the same medication as Parkinson patients..called Mirapex…at a low dose…it seems to help a bit. My RLS is day and night as yours was. I have Multiple lesions on my brain, went to the Mellen Center at Cleveland Clinic and they said no MS because lesions were not close enough to spinal column…but they don't know WHAT is wrong. Is it better to get a diagnosis or to keep wondering if you're just crazy? Also, they said MS lesions were oval in shape and most of mine were large and round. I wish you good health and happiness!

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  • September 19, 2011 at 5:10 pm
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    OK… The thing is, MOST the time that is the case but not ALL of the time… Doctors forget that sometimes the unlikely happens… I recommend you get a spinal tap ASAP because if you can get a positive then it dont really matter what they think about the shape of your lesions… Try going to get your spinal tap when your having a flare of symptoms, I heard you are more likely to get an accurate result because there will be damaged myelin in your spinal fluid. And remember… A negative means NOTHING… Some people have to get several spinal taps before they get a positive. GOOD LUCK!

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  • June 4, 2012 at 2:00 am
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    I have had RLS for something like 15 years. I am 35 yr old female. I take Requip nightly and it helps relieve the sympyoms, usually. In the last 3 years I have had bouts of numbness on one side or the other of my body from the top of my back down to my toes. It goes on for a about 2 weeks then subsides for months. About 7 years ago I had stabbing "lightning strike" pain in the side of my head/temple. It lasted about a year and I had 2 spinal taps and several MRI's. One tap showed a some elevated SFP, one scan showed an "infection or lesion" of the brain. I took several different meds including Topomax, Neurontin, Gabapentin, anti-depressants. It seemed to just go away one day. I only take the Requip now for the RLS, although I am currently having the numbness on my left side. Wondering if any of this sounds MS-like? Any thoughts? I wish you well!

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  • June 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm
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    Well do you have any other symptoms? Have you SEEN your MRIs? Honestly what seems to have made it go away is eliminating caffeine. Have not had a coffee in years!

    Reply

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