Restless Legs Syndrome

(RLS)

Definition

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder. It is characterized by:
  • Unpleasant sensations in the legs
  • An irresistible urge to move the legs

Causes

The cause of primary RLS is unknown. RLS may have some genetic components. In some cases, it may be caused by other conditions or certain medications. This is called secondary RLS.Many people with RLS also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). This is a related motor disorder characterized by:
  • Involuntary, repetitive, jerking movements
  • Interrupted sleep because of periodic leg movements

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of getting RLS include:
  • Family history
  • Pregnancy
  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, caffeine, theophylline, dopamine antagonists, and sedating antihistamines
Certain chronic diseases may lead to secondary RLS. These include:

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:
  • Feelings of tingling, creeping, pulling, prickling, pins and needles, or pain in the legs during periods of rest or inactivity—may also occur in the arms
  • Symptoms typically get worse at night
  • A strong urge to relieve uncomfortable sensations with movement
  • Restlessness, including floor pacing, tossing and turning in bed, and rubbing the legs
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
Symptoms may begin at any age, but they are most common in people older than 60 years old. Symptoms usually increase in the evening and during times of rest, relaxation, or inactivity. For this reason, people with RLS generally have insomnia, which may be severe.

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