Frequently Asked Questions
- Is it possible to have symptoms in other areas of the body?
- Can taking vitamin or mineral supplements help my symptoms?
- Are there any medications that can make symptoms worse?
- Are there any substances I should avoid?
- I suspect that my child may have WED/RLS. Is this possible?
- Is WED/RLS hereditary?
- Is there a known cause for WED/RLS?
- Are there exercises that can help alleviate symptoms?
- What are the side effects of WED/RLS medications?
- Can you give me a list of support groups/contacts in my area?
- Where can I find more information?
- How can I help?
1. Is it possible to have symptoms in other areas of the body?
Yes, Willis-Ekbom disease can affect the arms or even the trunk.
2. Can taking vitamin or mineral supplements help my symptoms?
If an underlying iron or vitamin deficiency is found to cause your disease, supplementing with iron, vitamin B or folate (as indicated) may reduce or even alleviate your symptoms. Because the use of even moderate amounts of some minerals (such as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium) can impair your body's ability to use other minerals or can cause toxicity, you should use mineral supplements only on the advice of your healthcare provider.
3. Are there any medications that can make symptoms worse?
Yes. These include:
- Antihistamines (like Benadryl) found in many cold, allergy and over-the-counter sleep aids
- Antidizziness, antinausea medications like Meclizine, Compazine, Phenergan and Reglan
- Antidepressants such a Elavil, Prozac, Lexapro and Effexor
- Psychiatric medications such a haloperidol and phenothiazines that are used to treat biopolar disorders, schizophrenia and other serious disorders
Always be sure that your healthcare provider is aware of all the medicines you are taking, including herbal and over-the-counter medications. Please see our medications handout for more information.
4. Are there any substances I should avoid?
Caffeine use may intensify WED/RLS symptoms. Caffeine-containing products, including chocolate and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, should be avoided. Alchohol consumption also increases the span or intensity of symptoms for most individuals. Please read our triggers handout for more information.
5. I suspect that my child may have WED/RLS. Is this possible?
While WED/RLS is most often diagnosed in middle-aged individuals, the disease affects people of all ages. Adults can usually trace their symptoms back to their childhood and often remember hearing things like "those are growing pains" or "quit wiggling so much." Evidence connecting WED/RLS and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is growing.
To learn more, read Children & RLS.
6. Is WED/RLS hereditary?
WED/RLS is familial in about 50 percent of affected individuals which is consistent with a genetic origin. It also may be idiopathic or related to acquired conditions, especially iron deficiency and chronic renal failure. Several predisposing candidate genes have been identified through genome wide association studies.
7. Is there a known cause for WED/RLS?
Extensive research into the cause of WED/RLS is underway worldwide. A single unifying cause has not been identified, but we are getting closer. Here is what we do know:
- WED/RLS often runs in families. This is called primary or familial WED/RLS. Researchers are currently looking for the gene or genes that cause the disease.
- WED/RLS sometimes appears to be a result of another condition, which, when present, worsens the underlying WED/RLS. This is called secondary WED/RLS.
- Up to 25 percent of women develop the disease during pregnancy but symptoms often disappear after giving birth.
- Anemia and low iron levels frequently contribute to a worsening of symptoms.
- WED/RLS is very common in patients requiring dialysis for end-stage renal disease.
- Damage to the nerves of the hands or feet (i.e., peripheral neuropathy) from any number of causes, including diabetes, contributes to WED/RLS.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common in children and adults with WED/RLS.
8. Are there exercises that can help alleviate symptoms?
In 2006, a small study found that a combination of moderate aerobic exercise and lower-body resistance training three days a week reduced symptom severity by about 50 percent. The study found that it took six weeks to see maximum benefit from the exercise program. In general, people with WED/RLS have reported that moderate exercise seems helpful and that strenuous exercise may worsen symptoms.
Many WED Foundation members share their personal success stories through "Bedtime Stories" a section of our quarterly newsletter, NightWalkers. You can also learn more by reading our exercise handout.
9. What are the side effects of WED/RLS medications?
Each medication you use carries risk of side effects. For details on specific side effects, it is best to discuss your prescription with your physician. Helpful online resources include:
10. Can you give me a list of support groups/contacts in my area?
Of course! Click here for a list of support groups or contacts near you. No group in your area? Consider finding support online on our Discussion Board, or starting a group yourself.
11. Where can I find more information?
Our most popular patient publication, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment for the Patient Living with Willis-Ekbom Disease/Restless Legs Syndrome, is our gift to you! If you would like to recieve a paper copy, call us at 507-287-6465 or send us an email.
To receive the most up-to-date and comprehensive information, you can become a member of the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation. You will receive our quarterly newsletter, NightWalkers, which features updates on treatment and research, as well as answers to reader questions from top WED/RLS specialists.
We have many other publications that you can share with your personal physician. For a complete listing of WED Foundation publications, click here.
12. How can I help?
The WED Foundation depends on people like you to continue our mission. Here are just a few ways you can make a difference to the WED/RLS community: