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Sleep Disorders: What is the Cause of Restless Leg Syndrome?  Previous

What is the Cause of Restless Leg Syndrome?

by: Andrew Bicknell

Restless leg syndrome is a condition from which millions of people all over the world suffer from everyday. There has been varying degrees of research done on this disorder but no one has been able to specifically say what causes it, although a recent study done by a team of researchers at Penn State College of Medicine and Johns Hopkins University was able to find what may be a probable cause. More on that later in this article.

What is known about the cause of restless leg syndrome is that its origins appear to center around problems with brain chemistry and nerve impulses that control the legs. Researchers have found that people who suffer from this disorder have nerve impulses that cause the legs to move or shift in reaction to the feeling that something is crawling around on them. The only thing that seems to alleviate these creepy-crawly feelings is getting up and moving around.

It is not known what causes these nerve impulses but it is believed that diet plays a significant part in it. Caffeine has been found to be a causative agent for people with restless leg syndrome as it stimulates the brain to send out movement and pain signals to the legs of those affected. Many people who suffer from RLS have eliminated caffeine from their diet and found that their symptoms have lessened or gone away.

Many people who suffer from RLS have found that stress or emotional problems makes their symptoms get worse. Stress and mental fatigue can affect brain function and the way it sends signals to the rest of the body. By reducing or eliminating stress the symptoms of restless leg syndrome can be reduced.

Medical research believes most of the problems associated with restless leg syndrome have to do with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. These deficiencies can cause chemical imbalances in the brain and of particular concern is a deficit of iron. This brings us to the study done by Penn State and Johns Hopkins.

In a report released in June of 2003 the researchers found that cells in the mid-brain area were not getting enough iron. This important find pointed to the fact that RLS is a sensory motor disorder and is not any form of psychological problem. This means that there isn't actually any damage to the brain cells and because they are iron deficient there is a good chance that good treatments can be found.

What they found is that the brain cells of the people with restless leg syndrome are lacking a receptor that allows the cells to receive the amount of iron they need to function properly. Because the cells don't have enough iron the neural signals may misfire causing the leg movement and the feelings of something crawling just under the skin. This does not necessarily mean that those with RLS are iron deficient; it's just that not enough iron is able to get into the appropriate brain cells to allow for efficient neural firing.

It should also be noted that smoking cigarettes have been linked to RLS. Studies have proven that cigarette smoke decreases the body's ability to properly absorb and metabolize vitamins a minerals causing a deficiency of these vital nutrients. Stopping smoking has been shown to decrease or eliminate the symptoms completely.

Anyone who suffers or thinks they suffer from RLS should seek the advice of their doctor. They can run tests to help find the cause of their restless leg syndrome and help sufferers take the proper steps to effectively treat their condition.

To learn more about the cause of restless leg syndrome, its treatment and coping strategies visit the website Restless Leg Syndrome by clicking here.

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