It may be in Your DNA: Restless Legs Syndrome

(ARA) – Around the dinner table, some families may talk about their urges to move around their “shaky legs” (a feeling usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant leg sensations), while others commiserate about their “creepy-crawly” sensations or their uncontrollable urge to move their legs, which could relieve discomfort. Regardless of the family nickname, they could be discussing Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), a neurological condition known to run in families. Studies have now identified some of the genetic markers of RLS and RLS is often found in families where the onset of symptoms is before age 40. One study showed that close family members of patients with RLS like siblings or parents have a significantly higher risk for RLS (77%). While RLS occurs in both men and women, the incidence is about twice as high in women.

Primary RLS is a long-term neurological condition characterized by an urge to move the legs, associated with or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations.

If you think you or a member of your family might be experiencing RLS, ask yourself if you’ve noticed the following key symptoms that physicians use to diagnose the condition:

* An urge to move the legs, usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant leg sensations

* Symptoms that begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting

* Symptoms that are partially or totally relieved by movement, such as walking or stretching, at least as long as the activity continues

* Symptoms that are worse or occur only in the evening or at night

“Since RLS is, in many cases, an inherited condition, it is important to know your family medical history when you talk to your doctor,” said Dr. William Ondo, professor in the Department of Neurology at University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, TX. “Together, you and your physician can identify lifestyle changes that may help relieve RLS symptoms and determine the appropriate treatment for your needs.”

It is estimated that RLS may affect as many as 10 percent of the U.S. population. Several studies have shown that moderate-to-severe RLS affects approximately 2-3 percent of adults, or more than five million U.S. adults.

Only a physician can diagnose RLS, so if you are experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor. Further, consider discussing the four criteria physicians use to diagnose RLS with your family. A complete family history is important information for your physician and may be helpful in the diagnosis of RLS.

Visit to learn more about the symptoms and diagnostic criteria for Restless Legs Syndrome.

Dr. Ondo is a paid spokesperson for GlaxoSmithKline who was compensated for his time on this article.


This information was developed and provided by GSK.

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