Is Restless Leg Syndrome Hereditary?

November 12, 2012

Is Restless Leg Syndrome Hereditary?

Restless leg syndrome is experienced by 10% of people at one point during their life. It causes an unpleasant sensation in one or both legs, which requires them to walk, shake or move their legs in some way in order to ease the feeling. 5 million British people alone suffer from the condition but there could be new hope. In a recent study scientists have identified two faulty genes, which cause the annoying condition. Restless leg syndrome is one of the most common nerve disorders but with this new information, it should be possible for scientists to develop a new drug to fight the condition. This will come as welcome news for both sufferers and the spouses of sufferers as the condition can often leave to a restless and disturbed nights sleep. A team of scientists, who came from the US, Germany and Canada discovered the two faulty genes and say that people who inherit these faulty genes are more likely to develop Restless Leg Syndrome. The genetic make-up of nearly 5,000 people who suffer from restless leg syndrome was compared to 7,000 people who do not, which allowed them to identify any differences. One of the faulty areas was found within a gene associated with brain activity known as TOX3. Although the direct link to the condition is unknown TOX3 is thought to protect brain cells and it is widely hoped that the findings could lead to new treatments.

The symptoms of restless leg syndrome begin with a tingling or prickling sensation and a sometimes a numbness in the legs. There is currently no treatment available and the only way to ease the feeling is to stand up and walk around. This can be particularly annoying as it most commonly occurs in the evening and night time so most people with the condition also suffer from tiredness and sleep disorders. In extreme cases it has also been known to cause depression.

People of all ages, including children can suffer from the condition but it is most common in older people with approximately 10% of people over the age of 65 suffering from it. Many women develop the syndrome during the last few weeks of pregnancy and children with restless leg syndrome are sometimes misdiagnosed as suffering from growing pains. However, the likelihood of developing the disease increases with age.

Restless leg syndrome is sometimes referred to as Ekbom syndrome as the Swedish nerve specialist; Karl-Axel Ekbom was the first to describe the condition in 1945. These results confirm previous suspicions that the condition is hereditary, as it was already well known to run in families. If you suffer from the condition, try gentle exercise just before getting into bed to stretch out the muscles and avoiding alcohol and caffeine is also thought to ease symptoms.


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