Restless Leg Syndrome in Children

Television commercials have brought a previously lesser known disorder to the limelight and the discomfort adults feel when faced with Restless Leg Syndrome. However, what is not as well known is that children also live with RLS, though make up a smaller number and tend to be more regularly misdiagnosed. RLS is primarily a clinical diagnosis, or focuses on the history of symptoms.

While adults visit their doctor with a list of symptoms and concerns, children are not able to put a name to their symptoms and in turn may not be seen in the same way. One drawback is RLS is seen as an Adult disorder and do not think about it affecting children, though all to often is seen only as “growing pains.”

Unfortunately, some 1.5 million children do have the disorder and what is now being seen as a beginning to understanding how adults acquire the disorder. It is known now that adults with RLS may have begun with symptoms as children, at the time being called “hyperactive,” and “fidgety,” as there was no other explanation according to doctors and knowledge at that time.

Misdiagnosis a Problem

Children are often misdiagnosed due to the fact that they will show symptoms such as conduct problems including aggression, inattention, hyperactivity and sleepiness because of a lack of sleep. The result of RLS can often be unsatisfactory school work, trouble with social development and other social interactions. Looking at these symptoms, on their own doctors will be more likely to diagnosis children with a psychiatric illness, mostly commonly ADD/ADHD, leaving many to wonder if past diagnosis of ADD/ADHD may have actually been restless leg syndrome.

The greatest number of children thought of have RLS are between the ages of 8 and 17, with many presenting severe symptoms. This static alone should bring awareness to doctor and parents alike that the possibility of RLS could be part of an overall picture, if only a secondary condition, though occurring more often than diabetes or epilepsy when considered a primary disorder.

Family History a Factor

Some may feel young children may not be able to completely vocalize their discomfort, and since there is no blood test available to rule out the disorder, if the child is able to answer some basic questions about their feelings and how they sleep, referring them for the further examination and necessary treatment with a pediatric neurologist. An important use of info for the doctors is the report of family history, since studies have shown that most young patients will have at least one parent with RLS, with a less amount having both parents with the disorder.

Now, according to researchers, there has been a discovery that RLS when a primary disorder, could be due to an autosomal dominant disorder and have located a gene that is associated with RLS. This information solidifies the idea that RLS is a genetic condition, and opening the pathway for further research and proper diagnosis when it comes to the discomfort of restless leg syndrome in children.