Restless Leg Syndrome responds to calcium

Posted9/19/2011 6:00 AM

Editor's note: After 28 years of writing a health advice column, Dr. Peter Gott is retiring. Today is his last column.

Q. My husband and I are both in our late 40s. He has suffered from restless legs syndrome (RLS) for more than 20 years. He has taken different prescription medications that either have not worked or have left him groggy the next day.


A couple of months ago I had some mild heartburn and my legs had that creepy-crawly feeling, so I got up and took two Tums. Even though my heartburn did not completely go away, the sensation in my legs did. The next night my husband's legs were bothering him, so I told him to take two Tums. For the past couple of months he has continued to take them every night. If he forgets and his legs start to bother him, he gets up, takes two, and within 30 minutes he is able to rest.

A. Calcium has been found to be helpful in relieving nocturnal leg cramps, and some RLS sufferers have also found that it is beneficial in preventing symptoms when taken just prior to sleep. However, many sources don't list it is a possible remedy.

Other deficiencies, most notably iron, magnesium, folic acid and B vitamins, are known to cause RLS symptoms in some. Some studies have found that diabetes and other diseases may also lead to RLS. Treatment includes supplementation for deficiency, prescription medications and relaxation techniques.

For other sufferers or those interested in learning more, there are several online sources that discuss symptoms, causes and treatment. The most popular of these is the Restless Legs Foundation (

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As a side note, the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation has also initiated the process of changing the name of the condition to Willis-Ekbom disease. This is for several reasons, in part because the condition is not limited to the legs, and the word "syndrome" implies a collection of symptoms, rather than a disorder.

Q. I recently found out I suffer from hypoglycemia. What can you tell me about it?

A. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar levels, is not a disease, but rather a symptom. It is most commonly seen in diabetics who do not have their sugar levels under proper control. In non-diabetics it is the result of an underlying condition.

Possible underlying causes include certain medications, tumors, alcoholism, anorexia, hepatitis, kidney disorders and endocrine deficiencies.

Hypoglycemia can be fatal if symptoms are ignored. Signs can include confusion, abnormal behavior, visual disturbances, tremor, anxiety, hunger, sweating, heart palpitations, seizures and loss of consciousness that typically occur between meals or on an empty stomach.

When symptoms occur following a meal, it can be the result of the body producing too much insulin. This is usually seen in those who have had gastric bypass surgery. It is important to note that these symptoms can be the result of other conditions, too, so it is important to seek prompt medical attention.

Treatment is twofold. First, blood sugar must be brought back into normal range. Then the underlying cause must be treated. For diabetics, carefully managing blood sugar levels and medication use is vital. In non-diabetics, small, frequent meals throughout the day can help keep blood sugars steady.

2011 United Feature Syndicate Inc.