(BPT) – A creepy-crawly feeling. An irresistible urge to move your legs. The inability to sit still for long periods of time. These are common complaints of those living with moderate-to-severe restless leg syndrome (RLS), a progressive and chronic condition that affects 2-3 percent of U.S. adults.
RLS is a neurologic disorder that causes these symptoms and it is no laughing matter. According to Yve Cook, a photographer from New York City living with RLS, “When I was first diagnosed with RLS, I laughed at my doctor – I thought he was kidding! It didn’t sound like a real disorder. It sounded silly because I had always been fidgety, but he said it was because I may have had RLS since childhood.”
While RLS can impact even the simplest day-to-day activities, such as watching a movie, driving long distances or sitting through a lecture, it also has a big impact on a patient’s sleep.
“Because symptoms mostly occur in the evening, many individuals experience sleep disturbances,” said Dr. Enrico Fazzini, a board certified neurologist. “Inadequate sleep can impact work, personal relationships, and even trigger other health concerns.”
Cook agrees, “I had a lot of trouble sleeping for many years and the lack of sleep eventually triggered other significant health issues. I couldn’t work. The sleep problems compelled me to seek medical attention.”
For many people, RLS is a progressive disease that may get worse over time. While there isn’t a cure for RLS, there are several treatments available to help manage the symptoms. However, finding the right treatment option for individual patients requires careful coordination with a physician, and may take many years.
“Despite being on treatment, my RLS symptoms continued to progress over time. I began feeling it in my arms in the middle of the day. I just wanted some relief and decided to find a doctor who specializes in movement disorders, like RLS,” notes Cook. “After working together to find the right treatment for me, I’m now sleeping better, and I don’t have to keep moving my legs around for relief.”
In addition to medication, patients may also be able to implement several lifestyle changes to help manage symptoms, such as finding activities that help them cope (walking or stretching) and adopting good sleeping habits (going to bed at the same time each night).
“As a photographer, I couldn’t do my job and what I love without the right medication and tools to manage my RLS symptoms,” Cook said.