Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes a strong urge to move your legs. This urge often occurs with strange and unpleasant feelings in your legs. Moving your legs relieves the urge and the unpleasant feelings. Patients suffering from RLS describe the unpleasant feelings as creeping, crawling, pulling, itching, tingling, burning, aching, or electric shocks. The urge to move and unpleasant feelings occur when you’re resting and inactive. They tend to be worse in the evening and at night and are temporarily relieved in the morning. RLS can make it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep. Some diseases, conditions, and medicines also may trigger RLS. For example, it has been associated with kidney failure, Parkinson disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, pregnancy, and iron deficiency. Research suggests that RLS is mainly due to the faulty use or lack of iron in the brain. Most RLS patients are diagnosed in middle age. However, in about 40 percent of RLS cases, symptoms start before age 20. People who develop RLS early in life usually have a family history of it.

The four key signs of RLS are an urge to move your legs (unpleasant feelings in the legs often occur with this urge), symptoms that start or get worse when you’re inactive, relief from moving, and symptoms that get worse in the evening or at night.

Mild cases of RLS often are treated with lifestyle changes and sometimes with periodic use of medicines. More severe RLS usually is treated with daily medicines. Lifestyle changes include avoiding certain substances and adopting good sleep habits.