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Restless Leg Syndrome

Do you have Restless Leg Syndrome? Find out what causes such persistent itches on this Moment of Science.

Restless leg syndrome is something that troubles a lot of people. It makes the legs itch, and the only thing that relieves the itch is to move them. If that weren’t bad enough, the itching gets worse at night; therefore, sufferers of Restless Leg Syndrome can’t stop moving their legs around while trying to sleep.

Thankfully, recent research has found that there seem to be no pathological changes in the brains of people with Restless Leg Syndrome. That is, there is no loss or damage of brain cells, as is the case in Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

As for the cause of Restless Leg Syndrome, it appears that cells in a section of the brain are simply not getting enough iron. These patients’ brains are lacking a specific receptor that transports iron. They get enough iron to keep the brain cells alive, but not enough to keep them functioning well, hence the itching sensation that gives the patient the urge to move his or her legs. Because it’s a matter of the receptor for iron malfunctioning, iron supplements are not the answer. While scientists are still working on developing a definitive treatment, there are medications your doctor can prescribe that may help ease the symptoms.

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