Diet, exercise may reduce restless legs

Feb. 2, 2009 at 10:48 PM
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DALLAS, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Simple changes in diet and exercise can help relieve some of the frustrating symptoms of restless leg syndrome, a U.S. researcher advises.

Dr. Shilpa Chitnis, assistant professor of neurology at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas said restless leg syndrome is characterized by overpowering, "antsy" urges to move the legs, particularly when sitting or lying down. The thrashing around can disrupt sleep and relationships. The arms or torso can also be involved.

There is no definitive test for restless leg syndrome, but doctors can use a history of symptoms to diagnose the disorder, which affects up to 10 percent of the population, with about 3 percent experiencing severe symptoms, Chitnis said.

If the condition is diagnosed, Chitnis said a physician can:

-- Test for levels of ferritin, a molecule that stores iron, and prescribe supplementation if necessary.

-- Identify correctable causes of neuropathy.

-- Take a medical history to identify drugs, such as antihistamines or dopamine antagonists, which might be worsening the condition.

-- Recommend an exercise plan to reduce symptoms.

-- Outline a healthful diet, including reduction of caffeine.

-- Prescribe medications that might relieve symptoms.

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