Little is known about the root cause of restless leg syndrome (RLS), which makes it very difficult to treat. Despite that fact, we do know that RLS affects a significant proportion of the population, and it becomes increasingly prevalent with age. It is estimated that 3-15% of the general population suffers from restless leg syndrome, but that number increases to 10-28% of adults over the age of 65. However, 40% of all patients first experience rls symptoms while they are teenagers.
One reason for this may be that the condition is partially hereditary. RLS is frequently found in families where the onset of symptoms begins before age 40. Researchers have detected at least six genetic factors that may play a part, and it is thought that these genes may be passed down from generation to generation. These genes are thought to be involved in the development of nerve cells (neurons) before birth. However, according to the US National Library of Medicine, “Variations in known genes appear to account for only a small percentage of the risk of developing restless legs syndrome.”
In addition to genetic factors, iron deficiency is probably the most common cause attributed to RLS that you will hear about. Iron is involved in several important brain activities, including the production of dopamine. You no doubt have heard of dopamine, as it is often attributed to sensations of pleasure (for example, it is often cited as the chemical behind the “runner’s high”). As a neurotransmitter, dopamine has another function than just making you feel good: it triggers signals within the nervous system that help the brain control physical movement. Researchers think that some error in the dopamine signaling system may cause the symptoms associated with restless leg syndrome. However, it is not known how iron (or iron deficiency) is related to abnormal dopamine signaling.
Although it has not been officially linked to RLS, there is often a strong correlation between restless leg syndrome and diabetes. In their 2014 study, Doctors Mehdi Zobeiri and Azita Shokoohi found that diabetic patients were more than four times as likely to suffer from RLS than patients without diabetes. However, the researchers did note that the link may actually stem from symptoms associated with diabetes, rather than from diabetes itself:
“Because of some association between neuropathy and RLS, increased risk for RLS in diabetic may reflect partial consequences of diabetic neuropathy rather than diabetes per se”
As with diabetes, there is no evidence showing that obesity causes restless leg syndrome. However, a 2009 study did find a correlation between the two. According to researchers:
“the prevalence [of RLS] increased progressively with increasing BMI and waist circumference. The association was independent of age, smoking status, anxiety score, use of antidepressant, and presence of a number of chronic diseases. A similar association was found between obesity in early adulthood (age 18 or 21) and RLS prevalence in mid-life or later (age 40 years and higher), suggesting that obesity is a risk factor for the development of RLS.”
There are a number of other conditions and factors that have been linked to restless leg syndrome, although researchers don’t yet know if RLS is actually caused by these factors. Diseases such as kidney failure and peripheral neuropathy (weakness and pain from nerve damage) have also been shown to correlate with restless leg syndrome symptoms. One study found that patients suffering from multiple sclerosis are five times more likely to develop RLS.
In addition, Certain medications, including anti nausea and antipsychotic drugs have also been shown to exacerbate symptoms. In these cases, treating the root cause condition or discontinuing the medication in question generally helps alleviate RLS symptoms. Pregnancy, especially in the last trimester, can also bring about RLS. In most cases, these symptoms usually disappear within four-weeks of delivery.
The “iron deficiency” theory is generally an off-shoot of the neurological factors listed below. As we mentioned researchers think that iron deficiency affects dopamine production, which causes the neurotransmitter system to malfunction. However, it is not known how iron may be involved.
Essentially, researchers do believe that dopamine may be a culprit, but iron may or may not be. As the University of Maryland Medical Center states, “Dopamine triggers numerous nerve impulses that affect muscle movement. The effect is similar to that seen in Parkinson's disease. In addition, drugs that increase dopamine levels treat both disorders. However, Parkinson's disease itself does not seem to increase the risk for RLS and RLS early in life does not increase the risk of Parkinson's later on.”
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, “Considerable evidence suggests that RLS is related to a dysfunction in the brain’s basal ganglia circuits that use the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is needed to produce smooth, purposeful muscle activity and movement. Disruption of these pathways frequently results in involuntary movements.”
Natural Remedies for Restless Leg Syndrome
This brings us full-circle back to muscle cramps. Research suggests that ingredients in ACV Cramp Cure can topically stimulate nerve receptors, thus signaling nerves to stop misfiring, and relieving involuntary muscle contractions. Many of our customers use ACV Cramp Cure not only as a remedy for muscle cramps, but as a natural cure for restless leg syndrome as well. Although science can’t yet tell us exactly why it works, all we know is, it does.
In our next post we will discuss some of the RLS treatment options, medications, and natural solutions that are available.