Restless Legs Syndrome

Did you know that hundreds of thousands of people are dying each year largely because of undiagnosed sleep problems?  Tens of thousands occur in the US alone.  For example, if you happen to know someone who’s had a heart attack, there is a good chance that an undiagnosed sleep disorder contributed to the problem — especially if the victim is young.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a frequently undiagnosed sleep disorder.  15-20 million Americans suffer from RLS, and many go undiagnosed for years due to a major knowledge gap in the medical system.  Amazingly enough, I’ve learned that few doctors and patients know enough to make the correct diagnosis.

People who have RLS describe difficulty sleeping on a frequent basis, and they describe creepy, crawly feelings in their legs that go away when they move around.  Sometimes the feelings are painful, and the feelings create a strong urge to move their legs in order to alleviate the feelings, and as a result they have a difficult time falling asleep.

Many times people will flex their leg muscles, stretch, or get up completely out of bed to walk around.  Unfortunately, the uncomfortable feelings in the legs tend to reappear shortly afterwards.

The “restlessness” of RLS can also include the arms as well as the legs.  RLS may occur in children, but the tendency does increase with age.

What causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

Although the cause is unknown, RLS does seem to be more common in patients with an iron deficiency, anemia, and kidney failure with dialysis.

How do you know if you have RLS?

Diagnosing RLS is very easy, all you have to do is ask yourself this question:  “Do you have creepy, crawly feelings in your legs when you are lying or sitting, and do they go away when you walk around?  Are the feelings worse at night?”  If your answer is yes, then you have a high likelihood of being diagnosed with RLS.  If you suspect you have RLS, please make an appointment with a sleep specialist, as they are the ones who can be relied upon to correctly identify the problem and give you the relief you need.

Out of the millions of people who have RLS, only the tiniest percentage of them know what is wrong with them.  As I mentioned earlier, this is because many go undiagnosed for months, even years in many cases.  Restless Legs Syndrome seems to be one of the biggest unaddressed health care priorities in the country, and something MUST be done about this debilitating and horrible disorder.  I urge you to read up as much as possible about sleep and various sleep disorders, because like anything else, education is key.  People with RLS aren’t the only victims, spouses of those suffering with RLS are almost guaranteed to be sleep deprived.

There are very effective treatments available for RLS, so there is no reason whatsoever for anyone to suffer from it any longer.

– Sean

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