Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an uncomfortable, overwhelming urge to move one’s legs, especially during periods of rest. This unpleasant sensation often is accompanied by feelings of throbbing, pulling, or creeping in the legs. In some cases, symptoms only occur on one side of the body, but both sides are typically affected. Moving the legs alleviates these sensations, which are often called paresthesias (abnormal sensations) or dysesthesias (unpleasant abnormal sensations). The discomfort may range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful and is usually worse at night. Conversely, symptoms are usually least severe in the early morning hours. Most people who suffer from RLS have trouble sleeping, which in turn leads to exhaustion and fatigue during the day. Sleep deprivation resulting from RLS can lead to issues with a person’s job, personal life, and basic daily activities. For those reasons, those with RLS are prone to depression. While RLS occurs in both men and women, women are two times more likely to be affected by the disorder. The exact cause of RLS is still unknown; however, some experts believe there may be a genetic factor as it tends to run in families. Additionally, some studies have associated low iron levels in the brain with RLS. Other factors or conditions that may cause or aggravate RLS symptoms include chronic disease, administration of certain medications, pregnancy, and alcohol consumption. Treatment of RLS may involve treating an underlying condition, making lifestyle changes, and taking certain supplements or medications to manage symptoms.