Restless legs syndrome

Specialty of Neurology

What is restless legs syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that causes an irrepressible urge to get up and walk or move the legs. As such, this is also considered a sleep disorder as it can cause significant sleep disruption in those with RLS. Anyone can suffer from this syndrome, although it is more common in patients with diabetes, Parkinson's, renal diseases and iron deficiencies.

What are the symptoms of restless leg syndrome?

The main symptom of restless leg syndrome is the unpleasant sensation in the lower part of the legs and the irresistible urge to move the legs. People with RLS may experience:

  • Burning sensation
  • Itching
  • Pain
  • Palpitations

All of these symptoms make it difficult to sleep. A lack of sleep can cause daytime drowsiness, anxiety, depression, confusion or difficulty thinking clearly.

What causes restless leg syndrome?

The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is not known. It can be related to other conditions such as:

  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Lack of iron
  • Parkinson’s
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pregnancy
  • Multiple sclerosis

What is the treatment for restless leg syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome cannot be cured, and treatments look to relive the symptoms. The first step in treating RLS is making dietary changes, as certain substances can make it worse, such as caffeine, alcohol and nicotine. It can also help to stretch the legs regularly, and taking measures to reduce stress.

Certain medications can also help, but are not widely prescribed for treating RLS.

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