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Sleep Med. 2004 May;5(3):237-46.

Impact, diagnosis and treatment of restless legs syndrome (RLS) in a primary care population: the REST (RLS epidemiology, symptoms, and treatment) primary care study.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.



To assess the frequency, impact, and medical response to the restless legs syndrome (RLS) in a large multi-national primary care population.


Questionnaire surveys of matched patients and primary care physicians (PCPs) in five modern industrialized western countries.


An RLS screening questionnaire was completed by 23,052 patients: 2223 (9.6%) reported weekly RLS symptoms; 1557 of these patients had medical follow-up questionnaires completed both by themselves and by their physician. An RLS sufferer subgroup (n=551) likely warranting treatment was defined as reporting at least twice weekly symptoms with appreciable negative impact on quality of life. A total of 88.4% of RLS sufferers reported at least one sleep-related symptom. Most reported impaired sleep consistent with a diagnosis of insomnia. Out of 551 sufferers, 357 (64.8%) reported consulting a physician about their RLS symptoms, but only 46 of these 357 (12.9%) reported having been given a diagnosis. PCPs reported that 209 (37.9%) RLS sufferers consulted them about RLS symptoms, but only 52 (24.9%) were given an RLS diagnosis. In most countries, sufferers, regardless of diagnosis, were prescribed therapies not known to be effective in RLS.


RLS significantly impairs patients' lives, often by severely disrupting sleep. The marked under-diagnosis and inappropriate treatment of RLS indicates that PCPs need better education about this condition. Recognizing how often disrupted sleep results from RLS should improve diagnosis.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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