Despite the fact that restless legs syndrome (RLS) causes difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, the findings of a new study suggest that the condition may be underdiagnosed in the primary care setting. RLS is a sleep and movement disorder characterized by an unpleasant feeling in the legs, which causes an urge to move in order to relieve the symptoms.
The study, published recently in Sleep Medicine, included >23,000 patients in 5 industrialized Western countries. The results showed that 9.6% (2223) reported weekly RLS symptoms; 1557 of these patients had medical follow-up questionnaires completed by themselves and their physicians. Among these patients, an RLS subgroup of 551 patients likely needing treatment was defined as reporting at least twice-weekly symptoms with appreciable negative impact on quality of life. Almost 65% of those patients said that they had consulted a physician regarding their symptoms during the previous year. Only 13% of those patients, however, reported receiving a diagnosis of RLS by their physician.