Multiple Sclerosis Patients at risk for having Restless Leg Syndrome

Community Member

Some weeks ago I had asked whether or not anyone had experienced any unusual symptoms in childhood which they felt might be related to their Multiple Sclerosis.   So many of you discussed how you had restless or painful legs which doctors attributed to "growing pains."   I wondered about this so I took a moment to research things and was amazed to find that RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome is linked to Multiple Sclerosis.   We may never know what happened to us as children but the research is showing that people who are diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis have a much higher risk to have RLS than the general population.

Before I give you some statistics on this risk, I want to give you a description of Restless Leg Syndrome.

This Medical News Today article  depicts RLS as an unpleasant feeling in the legs and sometimes even the arms which causes the sufferer to want to move them.   This uncomfortable feeling usually happens right before you go to sleep and can either keep you up or wake you up during sleep.   Some of the descriptors used by patients to describe the feeling include:   Aching, crawling, tugging, and burning.   I have not been officially diagnosed with RLS but I feel that I have definitely experienced these sensations long before my MS diagnosis.   It feels like I have twitchy legs and the feeling is most unpleasant especially when I am trying to relax to go to sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome can cause insomnia and subsequently fatigue.   So it is a worthy investigation to determine if one has this or not because it is treatable.   The tricky part of this for researchers and doctors alike is to determine the difference between the symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome and the muscle jerks and abnormal sensations which can be part of Multiple Sclerosis.

So what does the literature and research say about the MS and RLS connection?

On the website, "This is MS:  An unbiased multiple sclerosis community"    these statistics are given:

"Dr. "Pierre Duquette, an MS researcher with the University of Montreal, scanned 100 controls, 100 people with rheumatoid arthritis and 200 MS patients with respect to RLS. They found that 38% of MS''''ers had RLS, compared with 31% of those with arthritis and 16% of the otherwise healthy controls."

And in a 2008 study in the Brazilian Journal of Medical and Biological Research  entitled, "Restless leg syndrome, sleep quality and fatigue in multiple sclerosis patients" the authors conclude that:

"We confirm that RLS is frequent in MS and associated with poor sleep quality and fatigue. Despite the fact that symptomatic treatment for RLS is available, it is still an under-recognized condition and frequently MS patients remain undiagnosed and untreated. RLS has a negative impact on sleep, quality of life and cognitive functions and higher awareness of RLS among physicians is warranted."

Alan Mozes, a HealthDay reporter, shares findings  of a recent study on the association between Restless Leg Syndrome and Multiple Sclerosis:

"According to the study, almost 15 percent of the MS patients were diagnosed with RSL, while less than 3 percent of those without MS had the syndrome."

I personally find these studies to be very beneficial because if you do find that you have Restless Leg Syndrome and it is affecting your sleep and energy, there are things you can do about it.

What treatments are available for RLS?

On this neurology site Dr. R. O'Brien states that there are many medications which may be of help to RLS sufferers:

"There are several medications which have been reported as effective in suppressing RLS symptoms, but again there are few formal studies to compare effectiveness. These drugs generally fall into 4 categories, including dopamine agonists (example, ropinirole, pergolide), opiates (example: Oxycodone), benzodiazepines (example: clonazepam), and anticonvulsants (example: Gabapentin or Carbamazepine)."

There are also things which can exacerbate Restless Leg Syndrome symptoms and these include caffeine, alcohol, some anti depressants and some anti psychotic and anti nausea medications.

Other conditions linked to RLS are having Rheumatoid Arthritis, Parkinson's disease, Peripheral Neuropathy, and Thyroid problems.

In my personal experience it seems stretching alleviates a lot of my jumpy leg symptoms.   Stretching or massage seems to help me the best.

How about you?   Do you feel you might have Restless Leg Syndrome?   Have any of you been officially diagnosed with this?   What treatments help you?   We want to hear your stories