Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a relatively common neurological condition. It causes people to have the overwhelming and uncontrollable urge to move their legs. Around 10% of people in the UK are thought to be affected by RLS, to varying degrees, with women twice as likely to develop the condition than men.


What are the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?

The key symptom of Restless Leg Syndrome is the overwhelming urge to move your legs, but there are other symptoms to be aware of too:

  • An unpleasant crawling or creeping sensation in the arms, feet, calves, or thighs
  • Involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, also known as periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS)

All symptoms are often worse in the evening or at night and will vary from person to person. Some people experience the symptoms of RLS occasionally, while others might have them every day. In particularly severe cases, restless leg syndrome can be highly distressing and impact the patient’s quality of life to a great degree.


What causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

There are two forms of RLS. The first is known as idiopathic or primary restless legs syndrome, and it can be hereditary. This form is the most common form of RLS.

Some neurologists believe the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome may have something to do with how the body handles a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine helps to control muscle movement and could result in the involuntary leg movements associated with RLS.

In other cases, Restless Leg Syndrome is caused by an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure. This is known as Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome.

Pregnant women can also be particularly susceptible to Restless Leg Syndrome. In fact, roughly 20% of pregnant women will experience symptoms in their last trimester. Experts cannot establish exactly why this occurs. For more mothers, Restless Leg Syndrome usually disappears after the woman has given birth.

The symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome will usually disappear when an underlying cause can be identified and solved. However, if not, then the symptoms will usually get worse over time. They can eventually severely affect the person’s life. It can also disrupt sleep, trigger anxiety, and even cause depression in severe cases.


What treatment options are available for Restless Leg Syndrome?

Mild cases of Restless Leg Syndrome that are not linked to an underlying health condition often don’t require any treatment. The majority of treatment focuses on reducing and managing symptoms when they start to affect the quality of life of the patients.

Behavioural techniques are often the most effective. These include:

  • Developing a good, regular sleep pattern, such as following a regular bedtime ritual, sleeping regular hours, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine late at night
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Exercising regularly during the daytime
  • For more severe symptoms, medication can help to regulate the levels of dopamine and iron in your body
  • Iron supplements to combat iron deficiency anaemia

How can medical cannabis help with Restless Leg Syndrome?

When traditional treatments attempting to solve underlying conditions that may affect RLS, such as dopamine agonists, anticonvulsants, or opiates, fail, alternative methods like medical cannabis can be useful. 

Researcher Imad Ghorayeb wanted to follow up on reports that medical cannabis can help those with Restless Leg Syndrome in their study ‘More evidence of cannabis efficacy in Restless Leg Syndrome’ in 2020. The work found proof of “a remarkable and total remission of RLS symptoms following cannabis use”. 

What’s more, if patients are being prescribed opiates to treat RLS, then medical cannabis has also been used to reduce the harmful side effects from opiate treatments. Opioids are often a common choice for helping with chronic pain. This study, ‘Cannabis as an adjunct to or substitute for opiates in the treatment of chronic pain’, from 2012 states that cannabis can help lead to a greater cumulative relief of pain than opiates. That means fewer opiates are used and reduces the impact of any associated side-effects or risk of addiction. 

The Medical Cannabis Clinics team is dedicated to raising awareness about how medical cannabis can help with a range of neurological conditions, including RLS. Your prescription can be tailored to suit your individual circumstances and needs, with ongoing support and adjustments made as necessary.

At The Medical Cannabis Clinics, we offer personalised treatment plans and private care for patients through online video link consultations with our expert specialist doctors, who will guide you through the treatment options available from the clinic.

Appointments start from just £70. Book a private consultation today and one of our expert specialist doctors will be able to offer you targeted advice and treatment plans, unique to your needs and symptoms.

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