Is RLS Hereditary in Your Case?

I wrote earlier that restless legs are in many cases hereditary. This is especially true if you have primary RLS.

In primary RLS, the cause of the restless legs is idiopathic. Idiopathic means that there is a cause of its own. It is often not clear what the exact cause is.

In addition to primary RLS, there is form called secondary RLS. In secondary RLS, the restless legs are due to another disease. Or because of a shortage. For example to iron.

In the case of secondary RLS, the restless legs are not hereditary. Except when you have primary and secondary RLS at the same time, but that seems hard to figure out.

Hereditary through parents

My mother has suffered from restless legs for a long time. I think my RLS is hereditary through her.

She has regular complaints, but I don’t think every night. Actually, I don’t know exactly how often and how badly my mother suffers. I do know that it was bad enough to take it to the neurologist a few years ago.

I think she also had a sleep study at the hospital.

The neurologist diagnosed neuropathy. I thought that was strange at the time, because in my view her complaints clearly pointed to restless legs syndrome.

My suspicion is that she has at least a combination of neuropathy and RLS.

The neurologist prescribed her antidepressants. Apparently, anti-depressants also work well for some neurological complaints. She refused to swallow it.

I know from my father that he sometimes suffers from restless legs at night. With him it is incidental.

Restless legs are common in the elderly. In percentage terms, the chance of this structurally increases if you are over sixty. It is not always equally serious.

As far as I know, my brother doesn’t have restless legs. He has always been a difficult sleeper. He works night shifts at work. It takes him less effort than anyone else to stay awake at night.

This preference for nighttime activity is not hereditary in my case. I am definitely a morning person.

Other family members

I don’t know if other relatives, such as grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, are also awake at night with restless legs.

My father was an only child and I never knew his parents. His parents had already died before I was born. My grandmother was only 50 years old and died of breast cancer. My grandfather was in his sixties when he passed away. Also cancer.

My mother has three brothers and a sister. As far as I know they don’t have RLS. Osteoporosis runs in the family though. My mother has it, just like her mother, brother and sister.

I don’t know if they ever had restless legs from my maternal grandparents. My grandfather didn’t get very old. He died of a heart attack in his late sixties. My grandmother lasted longer and died at 85. She had Alzheimer’s.

Fellow sufferers

A while back I received an email from a fellow sufferer. She said that she, her father and her brother all have to deal with RLS.

All three also had intestinal complaints. She herself had irritable bowel syndrome. When she wrote to me, she had just started a diet in which she tried to eat less gluten.

I still remember when I read her e-mail that I thought that the intestinal complaints might have something to do with the sleep interruptions caused by restless legs.

Sleep is very important for digestive processes. If you do not sleep well, it does not only have the consequence that you are tired during the day or that your concentration deteriorates. The processing of your food is also disrupted.

I know from other fellow sufferers that some have restless legs syndrome in their entire family. Parents, siblings, uncles and aunts, cousins. Including their own children.

Maybe not all family members have it, but a lot of them does. In such a case I wonder why some people don’t have it.

Like me, fellow sufferers don’t always know about their relatives. They don’t talk about it themselves or those relatives don’t share this kind of information with each other.

It’s a bit strange that talking about it even within your own family is often difficult. Reasons for this I can think of are that you don’t want to whine or that you don’t want other people to know that you have this condition.

Another reason could be that you sometimes want to talk about something else. About more cheerful subjects. I get that.

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