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Restless Leg Syndrome Keeps Some Awake At Night

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Amelia Lewellen
RALEIGH, N.C. — For years, Amelia Lewellen had experienced sleepless nights due to unexplained leg pains, and she thought she was crazy.

Then, in 1993, she learned that there was a name for what kept her awake at night.

Now, she corresponds with many others who have the same thing -- Restless Leg Syndrome.

"Some call it a creepy crawly sensation. But to me, it's an electrical impulse," Lewellen said.

The impulses or shocks get worse at night, she said.

"The last sleep study I had, they were occurring every eight seconds," Lewellen said.

The only relief she found was getting up, getting active and waiting for the sun to rise.

"The sunshine makes a difference with me," she said.

Recent surveys show one out of ten Americans have Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS.

Over half of sufferers have a family history of the symptoms. So, RLS may be genetic. RLS symptoms also may be the result of other underlying problems, such as iron deficiency or kidney failure.

It seems to get worse when people approach middle age, but researchers believe it starts much earlier.

It can't be cured, doctors say, but it can be managed.

"I take a medication called mirapex," Lewellen said.

Mirapex and some other drugs affect the level of dopamine in the brain.

"I think it really just desensitizes the brain," Lewellen said. "But it helped me."

RLS caused Lewellen to quit her job, she said.

Now, she spends her time reaching out to others with RLS, on-line and through local support groups.

She tells others the words she said she needed to hear 12 years ago.

"You can come through it," Lewellen said. "It's awfully difficult and there are times when you think you can't."

To learn more about Restless Leg Syndrome, please visit the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundations' web site at




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