Renowned English physician Sir Thomas Willis (that's him, at left) first described the symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) in 1685. But more than 300 years later, scientists and physicians are still learning about the condition, which may affect as many as 10 percent of the US population. In fact, it's only in the last few years that studies identified some of the genetic markers of RLS and noted that it is often found in families when the onset of symptoms is before age 40.
Primary RLS is a long-term neurological condition. It is characterized by an urge to move the legs, associated with or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations.
The four criteria doctors use to diagnose RLS are also the symptoms people most often notice, sometimes prompting them to seek a physician's advice. The diagnosis criteria are:
o An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant leg sensations
o Symptoms that begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying down or sitting
o Symptoms that are partially or totally relieved by movement, such as walking or stretching, at least as long as the activity continues
o Symptoms that are worse or occur only in the evening or at night
People with RLS sometimes refer to a "creepy crawling feeling" they get in their legs. This feeling creates an urge for them to move their legs, which does seem to temporarily relieve the discomfort.
In addition to being involved with RLS-related activities through my job at GSK, I also have family members who suffer from RLS who have to manage their symptoms on a daily basis. As a result, I'm often reminded of the impact this condition has on so many people across the country.
With this in mind, I want to help call attention to the start of Restless Legs Syndrome Awareness Week. It is a great time to educate family, friends, and our community about RLS, and encourage people who may have symptoms to check with their doctor.
Want to learn more about Restless Legs Syndrome? Click here to watch a video that discusses the History of RLS.
If you or someone you know suspects they may be experiencing the symptoms of RLS, they should talk to their doctor. Only a only a doctor can diagnose RLS. Further, consider discussing the four criteria physicians use to diagnose RLS with your family. A complete family history is also important information for your doctor and may be helpful in the diagnosis of RLS.
Visit www.restlesslegs.com to learn more about RLS, and gain helpful information and tips for living with this disease.