Restless legs syndrome/Willis Ekbom disease: Evaluation and treatment

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Restless legs syndrome/Willis Ekbom disease (RLS/WED) has been recognized as a significant medical disorder since the 17th century. It was studied mostly in the last 50 years in relation to increasing interest in sleep medicine and health-related quality of life. This led to recognition that the disease is not well characterized as restless feelings in the legs. These symptoms are reported in many situations, but the subjective experience of RLS/WED patients differs from that experienced by others. Thus a new name has been introduced that avoids problems of symptom definition of a disease by naming it after those who first characterized it, i.e. 'Willis Ekbom disease'. This article emphasizes the importance of RLS/WED for psychiatry. The disease carries significant increased risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Treatment requires consideration of these co-morbid disorders. RLS/WED can exacerbate or even engender psychiatric disease, so treatment of psychiatric disease should also include consideration of RLS/WED. The need for attention to RLS/WED is particularly significant for depression. Most anti-depressants exacerbate or can even engender RLS/WED. Thus this article seeks to introduce RLS/WED in relation to psychiatric practice. It presents the RLS/WED disease, its overlap with psychiatry and the current treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)248-262
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Review of Psychiatry
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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