Restless Legs Syndrome

Overview

Definition

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nerve problem. It causes a person to move their legs without control.

Causes

The exact cause is not known. It may be a combination of genes, the environment, and other health problems.

Risk Factors

RLS is more common in women. It is also more common in people who are White and those who are over 65 years of age.

Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Taking certain medicines, such as antidepressants and antihistamines
  • Family history
  • Low iron levels
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease

SymptomsandDiagnosis

Symptoms

Problems may be:

  • An urge to move the legs
  • Feelings of pins and needles, creeping, pulling, prickling, or pain in the legs
  • Problems that get worse at night and make it hard to sleep

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is enough to make the diagnosis. There is no test for RLS.

Tests to check for health problems that may trigger RLS are:

  • Blood tests
  • Monitoring of leg activity
  • Sleep studies
Nerves of the Leg
Leg Nerves
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Treatments

Treatment

There is no cure for RLS. The goal of treatment is to manage symptoms. Options are:

  • Lifestyle changes, such as avoiding alcohol and tobacco, maintaining a regular sleep pattern, and exercising regularly
  • Managing any health problems that may be triggering RLS, such as low iron levels
  • Medicines that help control severe symptoms, such as:
    • Dopamine agonists
    • Antiseizure medicine
    • High blood pressure medicine
    • Opioids

Prevention

There are no known guidelines to prevent RLS.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.

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RESOURCES

National Sleep Foundation http://www.sleepfoundation.org 

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation http://www.rls.org 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Sleep Society http://www.css-scs.ca 

Health Canada https://www.canada.ca 

References

Garcia-Borreguero D, Cano-Pumarega I. New concepts in the management of restless legs syndrome. BMJ. 2017 Feb 27;356:j104.

Gonzalez-Latapi P, Malkani R. Update on restless leg syndrome: from mechanisms to treatment. Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2019;19(8):54.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:  https://www.dynamed.com/condition/restless-legs-syndrome-rls  . Accessed October 2, 2020.

Restless legs syndrome fact sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/restless%5Flegs/detail%5Frestless%5Flegs.htm. Accessed October 2, 2020.

Understanding RLS. Restless Legs Syndrome Disease Foundation website. Available at: https://www.rls.org/understanding-rls. Accessed October 2, 2020.

Winkelman JW, Armstrong MJ, Allen RP, et al. Practice guideline summary: Treatment of restless leg syndrome in adults: Report of the Guideline, Development, Dissemination, and Implementation Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 2016;87(24):2585-93.