Restless Legs Syndrome



The exact cause is not known. Certain genes may be cause or increase the risk RLS. It may also be unmasked or worsened by some medicine, changes in level of iron, and other illnesses.

Risk Factors

RLS is more common in women. It is also more common in people over 65 years of age. Other things that may raise the risk are:

  • Family history
  • Taking certain medicines, such as antidepressants and antihistamines
  • Low iron levels—may or may not be caused by anemia
  • Pregnancy
  • Chronic kidney disease



RLS can cause:

  • An urge to move the legs and symptoms ease with movement
  • Feelings of pins and needles, creeping, pulling, prickling, or pain in the legs
  • Problems that get worse in evening and night
  • A hard time falling asleep and staying asleep


You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis. There is no test for RLS itself. Tests may be done to look for things triggering RLS. Tests may include:

  • Blood tests to check iron levels or kidney changes
  • Sleep study to check leg activity and sleep problems
Nerves of the Leg
Leg Nerves
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Treatment can help to ease symptoms that are getting in the way of day-to-day life. Home care steps may include:

  • Avoiding alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco
  • Developing a healthy sleep routine
  • Regular exercise

Iron supplements may be helpful if low iron levels are linked to problems. Managing current medicine or other health problems may also ease symptoms.

Medicine may be needed for severe symptoms. They may help to ease symptoms and improve sleep. Types of medicine that may be used include:

  • Dopamine agonists
  • Antiseizure medicine
  • Opioids
  • Benzodiazepine


There are no steps 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.