Restless Legs Syndrome: No Joke for Sufferers

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MADISON. Wis.  – Some people think that restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a joke, not an actual medical condition.

Not so, says Dr. Stephen Barczi, a physician who specializes in sleep disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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“Restless legs syndrome is a real neurologic and sleep-related condition,” he says, adding that 10 to 12 percent of Americans suffer from the puzzling disorder.

People who have it often can’t sit still or enjoy a full night’s sleep — because their legs are constantly tingling, twitching and needing to move.

Physicians believe RLS is associated with a deficiency of iron in the blood or dopamine in the brain. It can also appear with conditions ranging from diabetes to pregnancy.

Barczi treats at least one RLS patient per week as part of his work with Wisconsin Sleep, the clinical and sleep research center at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Not all RLS patients need medication, he says, but some can benefit from carefully chosen drugs that can help control symptoms.
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