Restless leg syndrome is probably one of the most undiagnosed diseases in children. It is a movement disorder causing an uncomfortable and irresistible urge to move one’s legs.
This urge usually happens at bedtime or when lying down but can occur at other times when the legs have been inactive. The child moves and stretches the legs, tosses and turns, or gets up and walks or runs around in order to relieve the discomfort. The relief experienced is usually immediate.
The cause of this disorder is unknown, but low iron levels, diabetes and neurological diseases should be excluded. The associated daytime sleepiness due to lack of sleep may cause irritability, hyperactivity and difficulty concentrating.
Treatment options may include cutting caffeine, unnecessary medication and other herbal products, but instead doing a trial of magnesium, iron and folic acid supplements. If the symptoms are severe, sleep studies can be done and anti-convulsant medication might be prescribed. It is also recommended to elevate the feet on a pillow, heat a beanbag before bedtime and spend some time massaging the little feet to enhance relaxation.
Dr Desere Ferreira, General Practitioner, Intercare Irene