Doctor's warning over 'debilitating' restless legs syndrome that affects 1 in 10 Brits

Dr Xand van Tulleken
Dr Xand van Tulleken -Credit:Ken McKay/ITV/REX/Shutterstock

Dr Xand van Tulleken has highlighted a 'debilitating but misunderstood' condition that affects one in 10 Brits - restless legs syndrome, warning it should not be ignored as it can indicate more serious health issues.

Speaking on BBC's Morning Live, Dr Xand shed light on restless legs syndrome, a common nervous system disorder affecting millions across the UK. Also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, it triggers an irresistible urge to move the legs.

Symptoms include tingling, burning or itching sensations, a 'creepy-crawly' feeling, a sensation of fizzy water in your blood vessels, calf cramping, and difficulty sitting for extended periods.

According to the NHS, these sensations often intensify in the evening or at night, and occasionally, the arms may also be affected. The condition is associated with involuntary jerking of the legs and arms, known as periodic limb movements (PLM).

While some people experience symptoms of restless legs syndrome occasionally, others suffer daily. The severity of symptoms can range from mild to severe, and in extreme cases, the condition can cause significant distress and disrupt daily activities, reports the Mirror.

Dr Xand has issued a stern warning concerning a common health issue that is frequently overlooked despite its potential to indicate more severe conditions, Gloucestershire Live reports. He explained: "It affects one in 10 people and because it has this slightly funny name, it has not been taken very seriously by both the general public and by doctors."

He clarified that it's "It can be really, really debilitating and it can also be a guide to other things that you might want to look into. It can predict lots of other health problems, so it really is worth getting on top of and taking seriously. Women are twice as likely to develop it as men. It is common in later life but you can get it in childhood."

Dr Xand further added that it could be indicative of 'conditions such as kidney failure, low iron, MS, spinal cord injuries, nerve damage, it may be related to diabetes or auto-immune conditions and it can even be a sign of Parkinson's'. "This is not to say if you've got restless leg syndrome you've definitely got one of those things but it is just a warning flag. It is really worth flagging up as a risk factor," he added.

"It is common one in 10 people have it and most of them don't have an underlying people, but some people will do."

Dr Xand Van Tulleken has highlighted that while the exact cause of restless legs syndrome is often unknown, it can be associated with genetic factors or underlying conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure, known as secondary restless legs syndrome. For those affected, Dr Xand suggests first ruling out other potential health issues with a GP, including kidney disease, diabetes, and iron deficiency.

He also emphasises the importance of assessing sleep quality and avoiding excessive alcohol or caffeine consumption before bed. "Exercise seems to play a large role," he remarked.

"For a lot of people, exercise works (in reducing symptoms)."

Additionally, Dr Xand recommends trying stretching, baths, and massages to alleviate symptoms. While there are treatments and devices like pneumatic pressure gadgets available, he warns they can be expensive and may not always provide the desired results.