Understanding The Risks Related To Restless Legs Syndrome

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One of the more unpleasant experiences about long distance travel is feeling cramped and the strong urge to stretch our legs. When forced to stay seated in an aircraft for a long time, due to turbulent conditions for example, the need to get up and stretch can soon become overwhelming. Although it is certainly different from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), remembering such an experience is probably the easiest way for someone without the condition to understand what it is like.

As a condition of the brain, Restless Legs Syndrome or Ekbom’s Syndrome, as it is also known, is categorized as a form of sleep disturbance because the discomfort is mostly experienced when people are lying in bed, although it is sometimes felt when individuals are sitting. In bed, it can affect a person either when they are trying to fall asleep or it cause them to awaken, making regular sleep very difficult.

What Are The Health Risks Related To Restless Legs Syndrome?

When the condition is not treated, it can have all the serious effects of insomnia including exhaustion, depression, anxiety and concentration difficulties. According to the World Association of Sleep Medicine (WASM), moderate to severe symptoms of the disorder can result in sufferers achieving less than 5 hours of sleep per night.

Another serious risk associated with the condition, found in a study by Harvard Medical School, was that people suffering with Restless Legs Syndrome were twice as likely to suffer from heart disease or to experience a stroke as compared to the rest of the population. The study did not indicate whether treating the condition could reduce these risks.

What Are The Symptoms Of Restless Legs Syndrome?

As far as symptoms go, the relation to cramped legs on a flight is only intended to give the general idea because the symptoms experienced by people with Restless Legs Syndrome are definitely different. The symptoms are often described as abnormal, unpleasant or even painful feelings in the legs. These can include tugging sensations, numbness, tingling sensations, burning feelings and even the feeling that something is crawling in the legs. Such sensations are most often experienced deep in the calves.

Who Is Most Likely To Be Affected By Restless Legs Syndrome?

Depending on the source of research, Restless Legs Syndrome affects anywhere from 2 to 15% of the population. Women are affected 50% more often than men and the condition is more common in those of older age with an estimated 44% of those over 65 affected. As well, according to research from the University of Missouri, the condition is also 4 times more common in those not of African American descent. In particular, the condition is more common in those of Northern European Ancestry than in the rest of the population.

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