GlobalData’s latest epidemiology analysis found that while a significantly high proportion of the general population in the West experiences restless leg symptoms, less than one third receives an accurate diagnosis.

Restless leg syndrome sufferers feel uncomfortable sensations in their legs, such as tingling and numbing, and the feelings worsen at night.

The sensations provoke a strong urge to move the legs, which makes it difficult to have restful sleep and can adversely affect productivity, quality of living, as well as mental and physical health.

GlobalData epidemiologists reviewed epidemiology studies on restless leg syndrome in adults and provided forecasts of active total prevalent cases and diagnosed cases.

Active total prevalent cases refers to people who are positive for symptoms of restless leg syndrome as defined by the four International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group (IRLSSG) 2003 revised diagnostic criteria, focusing on current symptoms or symptoms occurring in the past year.

In the seven major markets (US, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, UK, and Japan), there is variation in the active total prevalence of restless leg syndrome.

With approximately 19 per cent showing positive symptoms of restless leg, Spain had the highest proportion of the population, while Japan had the lowest with 2 per cent.

Lack of accurate diagnosis

Diagnosis is extremely low, however, as only 5 to 25 per cent of those with symptoms have previously been diagnosed.  The cause of the low diagnosis rate in these countries is unclear.

In a US-based study of 15,391 people, 81 per cent of those who had positive symptoms fulfilling the IRLSSG criteria had discussed their symptoms with a primary care physician, but only 6.2 per cent of those were diagnosed with restless leg syndrome.

Similarly, in a UK-based study of 23,052 people, 65 per cent had sought medical help for the strange sensations in their legs, but only 13 per cent of those had been diagnosed.

Many studies suggest that a lack of awareness and knowledge amongst physicians is causing under-diagnosis of restless leg syndrome.

Given how many people report uncomfortable sensations that can severely affect their sleep and daily life, this is an area that deserves more attention.