Why do the Elderly more often have RLS?

Like me, you have probably read that restless legs are more common in the elderly than in young people.

I’ve always mostly taken this for granted, but why is this the case?

Is there something specific in the elderly that makes them more likely to suffer from restless legs than people of a younger age? On the other hand, some children also get RLS, so it can manifest early in one’s life as well.

In this blog I take a closer look at the relationship between the elderly and restless legs. I am trying to find out why this group is especially vulnerable to this condition.

What do you mean by the elderly

The term elderly is widely used in society. Sometimes this group concerns pensioners or elderly people over the age of 70 or 80. Sometimes it concerns people over the age of 60. Nowadays, however, it can also be about 50 or 55 over.

Old age comes with flaws, they say. The older you get, the more ailments you get. Your body wears out and deteriorates considerably over the years. At least that’s the case for most people.

The mother of someone I know well often says she suffers from PHPD. This stands for Pain Here Pain There. I suspect many older people will recognize this.

As you get older, you also recover less and less well if something is wrong. So there is a greater chance that you will suffer from something for a longer period of time. You may also be dealing with conditions that are chronic.

A consequence of this is that the elderly often become increasingly frail and require more care.

Old age diseases

There are several diseases in which the elderly are a risk group.

Well-known examples of this are cardiovascular disease, dementia, obesity, osteoporosis and depression.

However, there are many more diseases that, on average, occur more often in the elderly than in young people. An important reason for this is that the body of the elderly simply has less recovery capacity than that of someone much younger.

I have written blogs about some of these diseases before. I am thinking of rheumatism (osteoarthritis), Parkinson’s disease, thyroid disorders, varicose veins and neuropathy.

Restless legs

It is estimated that about half a million people in the Netherlands have to deal with restless legs.

The majority are older than 60 years. It is estimated that up to a quarter of people over 65 experience complaints.

Women are more likely to have restless legs than men. Most have symptoms every now and then or at most a few times a week. A relatively small proportion have symptoms every night. Some also have daytime symptoms.

In any case, the elderly suffer more than average from sleep disorders. They sleep less long and less well. Apart from RLS, sleep apnea is also common in this group.

Parents

Both my parents suffer from restless legs every now and then. My mother has it more often than my father. This only started later in life for both of them. I suspect they were over sixty.

My mother was diagnosed with neuropathy when she went to the neurologist with her complaints. In my blog about neuropathy and restless legs I already wrote that these conditions sometimes occur at the same time in the same person. I suspect this is the case with my mother.

My father probably also has neuropathy. Unfortunately, he has been experiencing more frequently symptoms of restless legs lately.

My symptoms worsened drastically in the year that I turned 43. I suspect this had to do with the fact that I was in the early stages of menopause. Before that, I used to suffer from restless legs every now and then. Since then, not a night goes by without complaints.

Many women in that age range experience symptoms of RLS. They do not yet fully belong to the elderly group, but it does seem to be the gateway to this for those women.

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