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New Guidelines Help Patients Suffering From Restless Leg Syndrome

BOSTON (CBS) - Restless leg syndrome is a condition that, for some, makes life almost unbearable, but a Boston-based expert on the condition says new guidelines could help patients from suffering in silence.

"It's kind of like bugs under your skin," says 49-year-old Sandy Rideout who felt an almost indescribable sensation in her legs every night. Her only relief was to keep her legs moving. It got so bad, she essentially didn't sleep for 8 months straight.

"You're pretty much walking around dead," explains Sandy.

Sandy was diagnosed with restless leg syndrome or RLS, a condition that affects about 2% of adults and 0.5% of kids. For some, it's devastating.

"I saw so many doctors and took so many medications and it was the bottom," says Sandy who became so desperate, she even thought about having her legs amputated and contemplated suicide.

As luck would have it, Sandy found one of the country's leading experts on RLS at Mass. General Hospital in Boston, Dr. John Winkelman. He says RLS can be misdiagnosed.

"They may focus on the sleep disturbance and unless the doctor specifically asks, 'Do your legs bother you?' they may not put two and two together," says Dr. Winkelman.

The American Academy of Neurology just released new guidelines on the treatment of RLS, including several medications as well as non-medications like exercise, leg compression devices, and even intravenous iron.

"With treatment, we can get them to the point where they cross country to see their grandkids for the first time in 20 years, and they can watch TV, and most importanly they can sleep," explains Dr. Winkelman.

And Sandy can finally sleep, with the help of medication. She credits Dr. Winkelman with saving her life. Her advice for others is clear. "Don't give up because I was pretty close."

If you suffer from RLS and it is affecting your life, please don't suffer in silence. Call your doctor because there is help available.

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