WHAT IS IT?
Restless legs syndrome or RLS is a condition of the nervous system affecting the feet and legs. Symptoms of RLS include muscle contractions; throbbing, aching or itching in the legs and feet; and/or a "creepy crawly" sensation on your skin.
WHAT'S THE CONNECTION BETWEEN RLS AND DIABETES?
Although medical experts aren't quite sure why, people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have a greater risk of developing RLS than the rest of the population. As RLS often strikes at night, you may experience fatigue, impaired brain function due to exhaustion, elevated blood pressure and spikes in blood glucose levels during an attack - all of which can make your diabetes more difficult to manage.
HOW CAN I TREAT RLS?
In addition to seeking an individualised treatment plan from your GP, you could also try these restless leg soothers:
- GET MOVING: Exercising or stretching your legs in the evening to avoid an RLS attack.
- CUT BACK ON CAFFEINE: As it's a stimulant, caffeine may trigger an increase in restless leg contractions, so consider making the switch to a non-caffeinated herbal tea instead.
- CHECK YOUR IRON LEVELS: Research from Penn State University in the US has found that iron deficiency can trigger nervous system signals to your legs, so ask your GP for a blood test to test your iron levels.
- AVOID SEDATING HAYFEVER MEDS: These can inflame RLS in some people. "If you suffer from hayfever, try using non-sedating antihistamines instead or discuss options like decongestants and nasal sprays with your doctor," suggests credentialled diabetes educator Kristine Bell from Diabetes NSW & ACT.
By Stephanie Osfield