Willis-Ekbom Disease

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Imagine you had an itch that you just had to scratch. The itch appeared whenever you were still. This itch felt like a shooting pain, a fire cracker landing on your skin, pins and needles or an insect crawling up your calf. The only way to get rid of this feeling would be to move and to move quickly. Restless leg syndrome sufferers are renowned for having to twitch, wiggle, jiggle and annoy their family members as they keep these awful sensations under control. The most difficult time of all to be motionless? Bed time of course.

The most significant consequence of WED is sleep debt as it prevents sufferers from falling asleep easily. It can also cause trouble at school/work as one looks anxious or disinterested during times when sitting still is a prerequisite. One's social life and interpersonal relationships can also take strain as many find the person who is constantly moving somewhat annoying whether it be in the movies, around the dining room table or during a cuddle.

Restless leg syndrome is now known as Willis-Ekbom Disease. I cannot find the cause for the unfortunate name change, but assume that it was 'discovered', explained and named after one or more scientists. It is a common and treatable neurological disorder that affects 7 - 10% of the US population. There are no figures for the incidence of WED in South Africa. It ranges from mild to severe and can occur in childhood but is more common in middle age. There is a strong link between WED and other neurological disorders such as ADHD as both conditions are linked to insufficient dopamine production.

Worried that you may be a sufferer? Here are the signs and symptoms:

1. An irresistible urge to move to overcome uncomfortable sensations.

2.  Symptoms are present throughout the day but worsen in the early evening or with periods of relaxation.

3. The need to move to supress these sensations interferes with overall function.

4. The sufferer often has uncontrollable, myoclonic jerks whilst falling asleep.

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