European Alliance for Restless Legs Syndrome (EARLS) is a non-profit, independent alliance of national patient organizations from various European countries which engages in activities that contribute to raising awareness of Restless Legs Syndrome. EARLS raises important issues at a European level, issues which are common to all members.
RLS is characterised by highly unpleasant sensations in the legs and sometimes arms and other parts of the body that are described as creepy, crawly, shock-like, itchy or even painful. The sensations cause an irresistible urge to move. Movement provides temporary relief so long as the movement continues. The symptoms occur in situations of rest and peak during the evening and at night, resulting in chronic sleep deprivation. RLS occurs in 7-10 % of the adult population worldwide. 2.7% of these patients need pharmaceutical treatment to live a normal life.
RLS is genetic in a high percentage of patients.
Some 25% of pregnant women experience symptoms, mainly during the last three months of pregnancy.
The exact cause of RLS is not known. Many recent studies have shown that there is impaired dopaminergic neurotransmission. Iron plays an important role in the optimal function of the dopaminergic system.
RLS is often unrecognised or misdiagnosed. Patients usually, when seeking medical, have to wait many years for an accurate diagnosis or treatment. Many people with RLS have relatively mild symptoms which may be alleviated by changes in lifestyle, such as avoiding alcohol and nicotine. But there is a substantial group of patients with symptoms so severe that treatment is called for. The chronic lack of sleep that accompanies RLS often significantly impacts on daytime functioning, and therefore quality of life.