Health Watch - Detecting Restless Legs

It's a painful problem that keeps patients awake, kicking and moving all night long. Now, there's a new way for doctors to diagnose the disorder.

Flower shop owner Betty Shaw and her daughter Cyndi Foshee take pride in their colorful creations. But a lack of sleep was taking a toll on both of them.

"When you don't sleep at night, it's hard to keep your concentration," Foshee says.

Shaw and Foshee suffer from RLS. At night, they have an uncontrollable need to move their legs.

"My legs jerk first, and then it feels like something crawling … almost like something is biting on me," Shaw explains.

"You'll see folks kicking 60-70-80-90-100 times an hour," says David Rye, M.D., a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga.

Now, Dr. Rye is using a new detector to diagnose RLS. Patients strap it on their ankle. It detects any movement, collecting data 10 times a second over five nights.

"You're actually able to discriminate a movement and then the movement going away," Dr. Rye says.

Doctors don't know what causes restless legs, but by using the information from the ankle device and other research, RLS is now being linked to gene variants that may cause up to 80 percent of all cases.

"My 18-year-old daughter is showing signs of it. It breaks your heart," Foshee says.

Another reason this family hopes the new information will lead to a cure.

RLS does get worse with age, and new research shows it could be a predictor of a much bigger problem -- cardiovascular disease. The condition is hereditary. In fact, about half of patients have a first degree relative with RLS.


Emory Health Connection
Emory University Medical Center
Atlanta, GA

(404) 778-7777 or (800) 75-EMORY

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