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Study Shows Restless Leg Syndrome Traced to Genetics

It has been estimated that ten percent of people worldwide suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome. RLS is a neurological disorder that makes it difficult to sit or lie still for long periods of time. The disorder often occurs in the evening and at night, so falling sleep or staying asleep is especially difficult for those who have it. VOA's Melinda Smith reports on results of two studies that trace the problem back to an inherited gene.

How many of us take for granted a good night's sleep? If you wake up often or do not sleep well during the night, there may be a genetic reason why.

Lynn Kaiser says she has not slept soundly in more than a decade. "It's hard to keep a brave face all the time, especially when you don't sleep for so long." Lynn is one of millions of people who have Restless Leg Syndrome.

Dr. John Winkelman, medical director of a sleep health center in Boston, Massachusetts, describes common symptoms of those who have RLS. "Intense discomfort and need to move the legs is most pronounced at night."

Two new studies in Iceland and the United States have confirmed that the condition is more than just in one's own mind. It is inherited through genetic variations. How those genes influence the response in the brain is still uncertain.

Scientists also believe an iron deficiency affects the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the central nervous system which controls movement and sensation.

The researchers say they believe the discovery of a genetic link will finally lead to effective treatment. That would be good news for people like Lynn Kaiser, who just want to get some rest: "My goal is to manage it, rather than it manage me."