Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs. This abnormal sensation is accompanied by discomfort, usually in the legs, and can prevent sufferers from having a restful night's sleep. RLS is estimated to affect about 10% of the population and is more often seen in women than men.

Symptoms of RLS

The most common symptom of RLS is a crawling or tingling sensation that occurs in the legs and an urge to move them. This sensation usually occurs in the evening or at night when a person is trying to rest or sleep. Other common symptoms include burning, pulling, tugging, aching, or itching in the legs. Sufferers may also experience an increase in their symptoms when inactive.

Risk Factors for RLS

There are many risk factors for developing RLS. These include:

  • Gender - women are more likely to suffer from RLS than men
  • Age - RLS is more common in adults over the age of 40
  • Family history - RLS can be hereditary
  • Pregnancy - RLS is more common in pregnant women
  • Medications - some medications including antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and dopamine agonists can trigger RLS
  • Lifestyle - those who consume alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine are more likely to suffer from RLS
  • Medical conditions - those with anemia, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, or kidney failure may be at increased risk for RLS

Diagnosing RLS

If you suspect you may have RLS, it is important to consult your physician. A doctor will consider your symptoms and may order additional tests to rule out other medical conditions that could be causing the symptoms. In most cases, a physical examination coupled with a detailed medical history is enough to make the diagnosis.

Treating RLS

In most cases, symptoms of RLS can be managed with lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes can include exercising regularly, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and getting enough sleep. Medications such as muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and anticonvulsants can help control symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary.