Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which you have an uncontrollable
urge to move your legs, usually due to leg discomfort. It typically happens
in the evenings or nights while you're sitting or lying down. Moving
eases the unpleasant feeling temporarily.
Restless legs syndrome can begin at any age and generally worsens as you
age. It can disrupt sleep — leading to daytime drowsiness —
and make traveling difficult.
Simple self-care steps and lifestyle changes may help you. Medications
also help many people with restless legs syndrome.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) Symptoms
The compelling desire to move is what gives restless legs syndrome its
name. Common characteristics of RLS signs and symptoms include:
Sensation starts after being at rest. The sensation typically begins after you've been lying down or sitting
for an extended time, such as in a car, airplane or movie theater.
Relief by movement. The sensation of RLS lessens with movement, such as stretching, jiggling
your legs, pacing or walking.
Worsening of symptoms in the evening. Symptoms occur mainly at night.
Nighttime leg twitching. RLS may be associated with another, more common condition called periodic
limb movement of sleep, which causes your legs to twitch and kick, possibly
throughout the night, while you sleep.
People typically describe restless legs syndrome symptoms as abnormal,
unpleasant sensations in their legs or feet, usually on both sides of
the body. Less commonly, the sensations affect the arms.
Often, there's no known cause for restless legs syndrome. Researchers
suspect the condition may be due to an imbalance of the brain chemical
dopamine, which sends messages to control muscle movement.
Your doctor will take your medical history and ask for a description of
your symptoms. A diagnosis of RLS is based on the following criteria,
established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:
- You have a strong, often irresistible urge to move your legs, usually accompanied
by uncomfortable sensations typically described as crawling, creeping,
cramping, tingling or pulling.
- Your symptoms start or get worse when you're resting, such as sitting
or lying down.
- Your symptoms are partially or temporarily relieved by activity, such as
walking or stretching.
- Your symptoms are worse at night.
- Symptoms can't be explained solely by another medical or behavioral
Your doctor may conduct a physical and a neurological exam. Blood tests,
particularly for iron deficiency, may be ordered to exclude other possible
causes for your symptoms.
In addition, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist. This may
involve an overnight stay at a sleep clinic, like Torrance Memorial Sleep
Disorders Center, where specialist can study your sleep if another sleep
disorder such as sleep apnea is suspected. However, a diagnosis of RLS
usually doesn't require a sleep study.
Sometimes, treating an underlying condition, such as iron deficiency, greatly
relieves symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Correcting an iron deficiency
may involve taking iron supplements. However, take iron supplements only
with medical supervision and after your doctor has checked your blood-iron level.
If you have RLS without an associated condition, treatment focuses on lifestyle
changes, and if those aren't effective, medications.
You Can Sleep Better!
Talk to your healthcare provider if you think you many have a sleep disorder
like Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). If you have additional questions or
need information please call Torrance Memorial Sleep Disorders Center
to assist you, 310-517-4617.