A little detective work can end restless leg syndrome agony for good
Q: I am writing from Australia and am wondering if you can help. My husband suffers from terrible restless leg syndrome at night. It started shortly after he fell off a ladder nine months ago and broke his tailbone.
He can’t sleep and no doctors seem to be able to help him. His doctor now wants to order an ultrasound of his parathyroid. Could that be the problem?
G.R.: I’ve treated many patients with restless leg syndrome, and I know how frustrating it can be to lose precious sleep night after night.
The first thing I always do when someone has RLS is look at the prescription drugs they take. Many types of drugs, from antidepressants to sedatives, cause RLS as a side effect.
Beyond that, RLS can be caused by a variety of factors, including kidney problems and low levels of parathyroid hormone. That’s why some doctors will order parathyroid ultrasound — to rule that out as a cause of the RLS.
Since the condition can be caused by something more common, like a deficiency of iron, potassium or vitamin E it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor about having your levels checked.
My favorite remedy is to drink 2-4 ounces of tonic water before bedtime. Quinine, the active ingredient in tonic water, used to be a medication prescribed for RLS, but it was taken off the market — probably because it was natural and it worked!
And, finally, there are lots of folk remedies out there for restless legs. The strangest is to take a bar of soap into bed with you (look this up online and you’ll find plenty of people who swear by it, even though they’re not quite sure why it works).
I hope some of this information can steer you in the right direction. And, remember, I’m always happy to take questions from Health e-Tips readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.