Restless Leg Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless Legs Syndrome (also called RLS) is a sleep disorder of the nervous system.  It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs.  There is no specific cause for it but doctors suspect that genes play a large role.  It may also be related to chronic diseases like Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, iron deficiency, or kidney failure. Restless legs syndrome can also be a side effect of some medications and some women are known to experience it during pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome is characterized by a tingling or itchy feeling it the legs.  Some describe is as a crawling sensation.  It can occur in the arms as well.  People feel the intense need to move their limbs to rid themselves of these strange feelings.  Some people rub their feet or legs together while others pace the floor to get relief.  Symptoms tend to occur while laying down or sitting still.  Activity usually helps the feelings go away.

How is Restless Leg Syndrome Treated?

Although there is no cure for restless legs syndrome, there are several treatments that have been successful in relieving the symptoms. The key to treatment is treating the cause behind RLS.

Diet and lifestyle changes can be helpful.  Smoking, caffeine, and alcohol have all been known to make symptoms worse so minimizing these or eliminating them can be a good start.  Stretching the limbs, massage, and electrical stimulation have also helped some people.

Your doctor may also prescribe medications if diet and lifestyle changes do not help.  These medications can include dopamine (both agonists and agents), benzodiazepines, alpha2 agonists, opiates, and anticonvulsants.   These drugs come with their own side effects so they are usually only used as a last resort.

Last Reviewed:
September 14, 2016
Last Updated:
August 23, 2017