- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Restless Legs Syndrome/Willis-Ekbom Disease
About This Article on Restless Legs Syndrom/Willis-Ekbom Disease
This article describes the disease commonly known as Restless Legs Syndrome and why the name was changed to Willis-Ekbom Disease.
A Personal Note
I have personally suffered with the disease formerly known as Restless Legs Syndrome and now known as Willis-Ekbom Disease since my earliest memories as a child. Throughout my life, I have endured being misunderstood by my parents, physicians and employers. I have published two other articles about Restless Legs Syndrome / Willis Ekbom Disease and invite you to read them as well.
The Name Change
Restless Legs Syndrome has recently completed the lengthy process of having a much needed name change. From now on, the disease will be known as Willis-Ekbom Disease (WED or WED/RLS). The Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation, located in Rochester, Minnesota, recently announced its own name change to coincide with that of the disease. Read more about the disease and name change on the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation website.
About the Disease
It is estimated that seven to ten percent of the world’s population has Willis-Ekbom disease, including seven million in the United States and Canada. Willis-Ekbom disease is associated with a strong urge to move the legs or other parts of the body as a result of an uncomfortable and often intense neurologic sensation. The sensations are most active when the person is at rest, such as sitting for long periods or in bed.
The majority of people who are affected by Willis-Ekbom Disease have a mild case, which can be treated by lifestyle changes including exercise and better sleep habits. Many others are seriously impacted by WED, causing disruptions of sleep which can affect their personal, social and vocational lives. Various medications have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of WED which can reduce symptoms dramatically.
Reasons for the Name Change
- To Drop Incorrect Descriptors. WED can affect not only the legs, but the arms and other body parts as well.
- To Enhance Universal Recognition. Translation into other languages is simplified.
- To Increase Disease Awareness. The name change will provide opportunity to further educate clinicians, research funders and the public about Willis-Ekbom Disease.
- To Move Away From Negative Connotations. Similar steps were taken when changing the name senile dementia to Alzheimer Disease and mongolism to Down Syndrome.
- To Decrease Trivialization and Ridicule in the media.
- Proper Acknowledgement: The new name acknowledges the first known description by Sir Thomas Willis in 1672 and the first detailed clinical description by Dr. Karl Axel Ekbom in 1945.
Over the past several years, Willis-Ekbom Disease / Restless Legs Syndrome has finally received much needed attention and is today recognized as the potentially serious disease that it has always been.