Restless legs syndrome (RLS) remains a common, yet often undiagnosed, neurological sensorimotor disorder, despite many years of research and increased disease recognition.
To help drive understanding and disease awareness among physicians and people with RLS, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. has launched an initiative to educate about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of RLS including a major direct-to-consumer advertising campaign.
The company has developed an RLS Simulator - a multi-sensory experience simulating a "day in the life" of an RLS patient to help physicians better understand this complicated condition.
"The RLS Simulator may help increase physician awareness of the disturbing symptoms of RLS which is an underdiagnosed neurological sensorimotor disorder," said Professor John W. Winkelman, MD, PhD, Medical Director of the Sleep Health Center of Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts.
While RLS symptoms can vary from person to person, they are generally described as burning, crawling, tingling, or tugging sensations in the legs. The RLS Simulator was designed to mimic the symptoms that many RLS patients experience and helps physicians gain a greater appreciation for the troubling symptoms their patients experience. This is accomplished through an audio-visual first-person narrative synched with simulated RLS sensations delivered through a state-of-the-art custom-made affixed sensory boot. It is the first experiential simulator utilizing three out of the five senses to aid in the community's understanding of RLS.
"We are committed to RLS education to ensure that the physicians better understand RLS and the impact it can have on patients' lives," said Paul Fonteyne, executive vice president, Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, Inc. "The RLS Simulator was created to help physicians experience first-hand the symptoms and other effects of RLS. We believe this will help improve communication between physicians and their patients."
The virtual reality format of the RLS Simulator may help convey the impact RLS symptoms have on a patient's life, showing the exhaustion these symptoms can cause due to the uncontrollable urge to move the legs at night which may interfere with the ability to sleep. According to the 2007 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America Poll, of the more than 1,000 American adult women surveyed, women who exhibited signs of RLS at least a few nights each week were significantly more likely to also experience symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights per week.
"Though more doctors today are aware of RLS, unless they suffer from the condition themselves, they don't necessarily know what it is like for their patients to live with RLS symptoms," said Sheila Connolly, a founding member of the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation and an RLS Foundation support group facilitator.
To further educate the medical community, Boehringer Ingelheim will provide thousands of physicians with the opportunity to experience the RLS Simulator at multiple medical meetings throughout the country this year.