DEAR DR. DONOHUE: Something funny is happening to me, and I’d like to know what it is. When I lie in bed at night, my legs feel like they’re getting electric shocks. I have to get up and walk around to get the shocks to stop. When I finally get to sleep, my husband says my legs jerk during the night. What’s going on? – L.B.

ANSWER:
You’re the victim of two separate but often linked conditions — restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movements of sleep. Don’t think you’re alone. More than 12 million Canadians and Americans contend with the same problems.

Restless leg syndrome consists of peculiar sensations in the legs when they are resting, mostly at night in bed. Some describe the sensations as insects crawling under the skin. Others feel them as shocks or burning pain. All must get up and move about to get rid of the sensations. Most people with the syndrome are in good health. However, iron deficiency can be part of the picture, and you should be checked for it. Pregnant women also come down with restless legs. It goes once they deliver.

Periodic limb movements of sleep are jerking movements of the legs that last from minutes to hours. The bed partner is more aware of them than is the person whose legs are jumping about.

One new medicine for the treatment of both is Requip. It restores the normal amount of the brain chemical dopamine. The same family of medicines to which Requip belongs is used for Parkinson’s disease. Neither of these sleep disturbances is related to Parkinson’s. Other Parkinson’s medicines can also be tried.

If you smoke, stop. If you drink alcohol, don’t, or at least don’t drink after dinner. Don’t drink caffeinated beverages late at night.

The restless leg syndrome booklet explains this peculiar phenomenon in detail. Readers can order a copy by writing: Dr. Donohue – No. 306, Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Enclose a check or money order (no cash) for $4.75 U.S./$6.75 Can. with the recipient’s printed name and address.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: I am raising my two granddaughters, ages 14 and 16. At my age, it’s a bit taxing, but they love me and I love them. The only thing we disagree about is milk. They won’t drink any. They say they find it “gross.” I wonder if they’re getting enough calcium. What would you say to them? – W.F.

ANSWER:
I’d say, “Girls, drink your milk like your grandmother tells you.”

If they are not eating or drinking any dairy products, they are not likely meeting their calcium requirements. An adequate daily calcium intake for girls their age is 1,300 mg. Dairy products are the best sources of calcium. Will they eat cheese or yogurt? That would help matters.

What do they mean by “gross”? Does milk give them gas and diarrhea? If it does, they might have lactose intolerance. Lactose is milk sugar. To digest it, people must have in their intestine an enzyme called lactase. If they don’t have enough of it, dairy products make them miserable. That can be remedied by taking the lactase enzyme with dairy products or using products already treated with the enzyme.

DEAR DR. DONOHUE: My daughter is 31 and has been married for two years. She and her husband want to start a family. She asked if she had been vaccinated for German measles. I don’t remember, and the doctor who took care of our family has died. I tried to get his records before but couldn’t.

Should she get a vaccination now? Is there any way to determine if she has been vaccinated? – B.Z.

ANSWER:
German measles is now called rubella. It isn’t a terribly serious infection, but it is terribly serious to a fetus. If a pregnant woman is infected with it, the baby might be born with many malformations – cataracts, heart disease, deafness and other defects.

There is a test to determine if a person was previously vaccinated. A blood specimen can be taken and analyzed for antibodies. If she doesn’t have rubella antibodies, she should get the vaccine.

Dr. Donohue regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but he will incorporate them in his column whenever possible. Readers may write him or request an order form of available health newsletters at P.O. Box 536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475. Readers may also order health newsletters from www.rbmamall.com


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