What is EKBOM symptom (symptoms, diagnosis, etiology, treatment, prevention)?

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jkirkwoo | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

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Ekbom syndrome is a rare psychiatric disorder where the patient feels that their legs are infested with insects or parasites just below the skin.  They often go to a dermatologist for treatment and are then referred to a psychiatrist.  It was named after Karl-Axel Ekbom who described it in 1938.  It is found to be more common in post-menopausal women and is an extension of a mood or other psychiatric condition such as depression or even schizophrenia.  The link below is to a case report on treating an elderly lady with Ekbom's syndrome with the medicine mirtazepine (Remeron) and ECT's (electro-convulsive therapy)

Some people refer Restless Leg's Syndrome as Ekbom's syndrome but these two disorders are slightly different.  RLS (Restless Leg's Syndrome) is a sleep disorder which has leg discomfort during sleep which can only be relieved by the patient moving his/her legs.  It's cause is not known but occurs more often in patients with peripheral neuropathy, chronic kidney disease, iron deficiency, pregnancy, and Parkinson's Disease.  Patients have an irresistible urge to more their legs and this occurs most frequently upon just lying down in preparation for sleep.  There is no specific testing that can be done to diagnose it so the diagnosis is based off of symptomology. Treatment involves medicines such as Requip, sinemet, gabapentin, pregabalin, and sometimes anti-anxiety medication like clonazepam.

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giorgiana1976 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Valedictorian

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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disease quite common but often overlooked, affecting both movement and sleep. People with RLS presents an unpleasant sensation in the feet and a tendency to move them.Although the disease has been recognized since the early seventeenth century, it was described first time in 1945, BY the Swedish neurologist, Karl-Axel Ekbom. Ekbom syndrome is sometimes called.


Symptoms vary from person to person. Symptoms may be uncomfortable or irritating, distressing or debilitating. Although the disease is not a life-threatening, it may have a negative effect on everyday life.

Symptoms may include:

- Urgent need to move legs

- Feeling uncomfortable in the legs

- Sleep disturbances and sleep disorders

- Periodic movements, involuntary, spasmodic of the legs, that occur during the night.

The main symptoms of RLS are the urgent need to move the legs and is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations that are frequently described as tingling or stinging. Some patients described symptoms that feeling of electrical power or itching in the skeletal system. Usually symptoms occur at rest, lying down, sitting or during sleep, being temporarily relieved by movement. Usually triggers or worsens in the evening or during sleep.


 RLS etiology is unknown. However, studies show that could be related to a disrupted balance of a chemical in the brain, substance called dopamine. Dopamine is naturally secreted and is involved in coordinating movements. Blood level of dopamine decreases in evening and it can thus be explained why symptoms of  RLS get worse during the evening and night.Another cause of  RLS is an iron deficiency, which occurs in the production of dopamine. There are two types of SPN: primary and secondary.


If the suspected existence of  RLS, it is recommended to consult the following list of possible symptoms:

- Urgent need to move your feet - you have any urgent feeling to move the legs caused by unpleasant sensations in the legs?

- Symptoms are worse at rest - symptoms appear or worsen during periods of inactivity, like sitting or lying position?- Improve symptoms by movement - the movement that improves symptoms, walking or stretching?

- During the night are more intense symptoms - symptoms occur more frequently or worsen in the evening or at night?

If you answered positively to most questions, there is a high possibility of having  RLS.


Changing lifestyle

There are several lifestyle changes that can improve symptoms RLS, for example:

- Avoid stimulants like tobacco substances, alcohol, coffee

- Smoking is forbidden

- Take regular exercise (but not around the hours of sleep)

- Establish a regular schedule of sleep and wake from sleep in the same hours, without rest periods during the day, period of relaxation before going to sleep, avoid stimulant, for example caffeine before bedtime

Drug therapy

If severe symptoms that do not respond to changes in lifestyle are recommended combination with drug therapy.Dopamine agonists are the most used types of medications for this disorder. These medicines are used to treat Parkinson's disease. However, patients with SPN, have not the increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease.

If the RLS is produced by iron deficiency, iron therapy can reduce symptoms. If the pregnancy is what triggered the symptoms, usually they disappear until four weeks after birth.

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