He restless leg syndrome in children (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom disease, is a chronic neurological disorder characterized by an urgent need to move the legs in rest situations and which disappears when the body is in motion. These discomforts are worse at the end of the day, especially at night, and are relieved with movement. RLS severely affects between 2% and 3% of the child population worldwide.
The cause is complex and not entirely well established, although there are several hypotheses that may be associated with this syndrome:
- It can be produced by an alteration of neurotransmitters (basically in the Dopamine D2 receptor). Neurotransmitters are substances that allow connections between neurons, causing certain variations in the substances that allow neuronal communication.
- It has been related to an iron deficiency (iron deficiency anemia), since this intervenes in the proper functioning of neurotransmitters.
- There is also an important genetic component, and that is that 70% of children and adolescents with RLS have a first-degree relative with RLS, usually the mother.
- RLS has also been described in children with kidney and liver failure, peripheral neuropathies, diabetes mellitus, some types of early-onset hereditary ataxias, and spinal cord injuries.
RLS creates an urgent need for children to move their legs, especially when the child is in a resting or inactive position, for example, when they are sitting in class, watching television or in the car.
These complaints are partially or totally improved by movements such as walking, bending over, stretching, and are worse in the evening. Many children, having this discomfort in the legs, have a need to want to run and manifest a tingling sensation in the legs that only calms with movement. If the condition lasts for hours, it can trigger sleep disorders, which in turn can cause behavioral disturbances, aggressive behavior and / or hyperactivity syndrome, even depressive symptoms and anxiety disorders have been described.
Basically the diagnosis is clinical, that is, due to the presence of symptoms, and of course the family history with RLS. An evaluation by the pediatrician is important, since in many cases RLS can be confused with growing pains, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or muscle cramps. In addition, the pediatrician is the one who will determine to perform laboratory studies (hemogram, glycemia, transaminases, renal function parameters and ferritin and urine test).
Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome in children it is individualized and according to the symptoms, but it is important that parents adopt certain measures from home to improve this disorder:
- Set a regular sleep schedule.
- Avoid large meals and the consumption of stimulating foods such as chocolate,
- Eliminate intense exercise in the hours before bedtime and reduce stimulating activities such as watching television or video games before going to bed.
- Do sports activities such as swimming, basketball, soccer or yoga.
- Carry out hot baths before going to sleep or massages, physiotherapy is also useful.
- And, in the most severe cases, the doctor will determine the use of medications.
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