Restless Legs Syndrome in Children

Restless Legs Syndrome(RLS) is a neurologic condition marked by an uncomfortable feeling in the legs along with an overwhelming urge to move the legs. The condition affects 2-3% of children in the U.S. and might be genetic.

The symptoms of this condition usually get worse at night especially when a child is lying in bed. Children frequently are restless in bed with complaints of leg discomfort or have difficulty falling asleep. Several children may report these symptoms as an urge to walk around or an urge to shake the legs to relieve the discomfort. Other symptoms of this condition may include:

  • Tossing and turning in bed
  • Frequent leg kicking during sleep
  • Itching or gnawing feeling in the legs
  • Tugging, pulling, or bubbling sensation in the legs
  • Burning or searing sensation in the legs
  • Pain, throbbing or aching in the legs

Restless Legs Syndromecan make it difficult to stay asleep or fall asleep. A child may battle the usual bedtime and refuse to go to sleep until late at night. It is because the child is not sleeping well or there might also be behavioral changes such as:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Aggression
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Poor concentration

Symptoms may also be caused by periods of inactivity such as sitting in a movie theatre, long car trips, immobilization in a cast, or long-distance flights. Parents may mistake these symptoms for developing pains or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome in Children

To diagnose RLS in children up to age 12, the adult criteria must be met:

  • An overwhelming urge to move, typically along with strange sensations
  • Symptoms ease up when you move
  • Symptoms are triggered when you try to sleep or relax
  • Symptoms worsen at night

Additionally, the child must be able to describe the leg sensations in their own words. If not, two of these must be true:

  • A biological parent or sibling had RLS.
  • There’s a clinical sleep disturbance for age.
  • Sleep study confirms a periodic limb movement index of five or more for every hour of sleep.

Any lack of dietary must be addressed. Children with RLS must avoid caffeine and improve good bedtime habits. If needed, medications that affect benzodiazepines, dopamine, and anticonvulsants might be recommended.

Treatments in Children

Even though there is no cure for Restless Legs Syndrome, symptoms can be managed with techniques that include:

  • Physical activity in the late afternoon or early evening. Perform gentle exercises such as walking and try to avoid heavy exercises within a few hours of bedtime.
  • Assessing for and treating micronutrient deficiency such as magnesium and iron. Have your physician check the iron levels of your child. Low levels may contribute to Restless Legs Syndrome.
  • The child is only to get into bed and lay in the day when it is time to go to bed. Adopt appropriate bedtime habits.
  • Make sure your child is eating well-balanced and healthy meals.
  • Avoid giving products that have caffeine such as chocolates or colas. It may make the condition worse.
  • You may also use a cold compress or heating pad to provide temporary relief to the discomfort of their legs.

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