Restless Legs Syndrome Explained

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What is it?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder. It is uncontrollable and urges your legs to move. The urge to move the legs may occur either in the evening or in the night time. The patient during these times feels uncomfortable while sitting or lying down. Moving the legs may help to ease the unpleasant feeling for some time. It is also referred to as Willis Ekbom disease or Sleep disorder disease.


RLS is of two types.

  1. Primary RLS – It is a condition associated with the nerves. Many people may experience symptoms during their middle ages. For a few, the signs may appear during their childhood.
  2. Secondary RLS – It is a condition that is more severe than primary RLS. It comes with great risk factors.

Who is prone to RLS and what causes it?

Anyone can suffer from RLS and the condition may trigger at any age. Even small kids can show early symptoms of RLS. The condition only worsens with age.

There are no specific causes for this condition. Many researchers suspect that this condition may be due to an imbalance in the dopamine levels in the brain. This is because the chemical, dopamine, is responsible for muscle control movements in the body.  


Risk Factors:

Some of the risk factors resulting in RLS condition include:

  • Heredity – It is one of the factors that give rise to this condition, especially if it occurs before 40 years of age.
  • Pregnancy – During pregnancy, hormonal changes may worsen muscle movement leading to RLS. Few women suffer from RLS symptoms in their first pregnancy and the condition is at its worse during the last trimester. However, the symptoms subside post-delivery.
  • Chronic Diseases –  These also pose a risk to the RLS condition. Few among them are renal failure, peripheral neuropathy, iron deficiency, and diabetes.
  • Medications – A few medications may lead to this condition. Medications such as anti-depressant drugs, anti-nausea drugs, and antipsychotic drugs only worsen the condition.


People find it hard to describe RLS condition. Affected people usually describe this condition as the desire to move their legs often. The common symptoms of RLS include:

  • The uncontrollable urge to move – This feeling begins when you are in a resting position for longer periods. For instance, you may experience a sudden urge while sitting in an airplane, theatre or in a car for longer durations. However, you begin to feel comfortable once you stretch your legs, walk, move more often.
  • Twitching and Limb Movement – Night-time twitching and periodic limb movement while you sleep, are the most common symptoms of RLS. Usually, this condition affects both the legs. In certain in rare cases, it may also affect both the arms as well.



There are no specific laboratory tests to diagnose RLS. However, the doctor will ask you to do carry out a few blood tests to rule out certain other related conditions. Your doctor will most probably diagnose you based on your symptoms and the responses to his/her questions. Patient history, use of medications, and prevalence of other symptoms may prove to be useful in the diagnosis.


The treatment of the RLS mainly involves easing the symptoms. People with mild to moderate symptoms can adopt changes in their lifestyle. It includes regular exercises and proper sleep patterns. The decrease in the consumption of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco will also help to reduce RLS symptoms.


Treatment using drugs:

Dopaminergic drugs, Narcotic drugs, Benzodiazepines, anticonvulsants drugs may help to treat the condition. However, there is no cure for the disease. Treatment using the drugs may help to decrease the signs and symptoms and help to improve your sleeping pattern.


Treatment without drugs:

Leg massages, good sleeping habits, hot baths, and the use of vibrating pads may help you to get some relief from pain.