Restless Leg Syndrome


Restless Leg Syndrome, or RLS, is a condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and makes it hard to fall asleep. It can affect people of all ages, but it’s more common in women. About 10% of the population may experience RLS at some point. The symptoms of RLS include feelings like throbbing or pulling in the legs.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an irresistible urge to move the legs. People with RLS also often experience uncomfortable sensations in their legs, such as crawling, tingling, or burning sensations. RLS is often associated with periodic limb movement disorder, which causes the legs to twitch during sleep.

Symptoms usually occur when the person is at rest, such as sitting or lying down, and can make it difficult to fall or stay asleep. The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but it is believed that iron deficiency, dopamine dysfunction, and genetics may play a role.

Restless leg syndrome starts when the leg is at rest
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Several treatment options are available to relieve symptoms of restless leg syndrome, including lifestyle changes, medications, and therapies. It is essential to speak with a doctor to find the most appropriate treatment for your specific case of RLS.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder PLMD

PLMD is a condition where a person’s legs jerk uncontrollably during sleep. While not everyone with RLS has PLMD, those with PLMD often experience RLS symptoms. PLMD may also contribute to sleep disturbances and daytime fatigue.

While there is no cure for RLS or PLMD, treatments exist to help manage symptoms. One option is medication, such as dopamine agonists, which can improve RLS symptoms. Speaking with a doctor to determine the most effective treatment for your needs is essential.

If you experience RLS symptoms, you can take steps to relieve discomfort. Regular exercise, stretching, and massaging the legs can all help reduce symptoms. Additionally, avoiding caffeine and other stimulants and establishing a regular sleep routine can improve sleep quality and alleviate RLS symptoms.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs, which can range from a mild tingling sensation to a painful throbbing. The primary symptom of RLS is an irresistible urge to move your legs. This usually occurs when you are at rest, such as sitting or lying down, and can make it challenging to fall asleep.

Doctors do not know the cause of restless leg syndrome, but several factors may contribute to its development. One potential cause is lack of iron, which has been linked to RLS in many patients. People with RLS tend to have PLM of sleep, which can cause your legs to twitch or kick while you sleep and worsen RLS symptoms.

Restless leg syndrome causes involuntary movement in sleep
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Other possible causes include abnormalities in dopamine regulation, a neurotransmitter regulating movement, and genetic factors. Additionally, certain medications and medical conditions can cause or worsen symptoms, including diabetes, kidney disease, and peripheral neuropathy.

Iron deficiency and RLS

Iron deficiency is a condition with a lack of iron in the body, which can lead to anaemia. Studies have shown that low iron levels in the brain can contribute to RLS. Iron is essential for the production of dopamine, which is a brain chemical that affects movement. When iron levels are low, dopamine production is disrupted, which can lead to RLS symptoms.

If you experience RLS symptoms, your doctor may recommend getting your iron levels checked. If your iron levels are low, your doctor may recommend iron supplements or changes to your diet to increase your iron intake.

Sleep disturbances and RLS

Sleep disturbances are common among people with restless leg syndrome. The urge felt to move your legs can disrupt sleep and make falling or staying asleep challenging. Poor sleep quality can worsen RLS symptoms and increase the risk of other health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

If you experience sleep disturbances due to RLS, your doctor may recommend medications to help improve sleep quality. Additionally, lifestyle changes such as practising good sleep hygiene, avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, and establishing a relaxing pre-sleep routine may also help improve sleep quality.

Genetic factors and RLS

Restless leg syndrome also appears to have a genetic component. Studies have shown that people with a family history of RLS are more likely to develop the condition themselves. However, the exact genes involved in RLS are not yet known.

Although the causes of restless leg syndrome are not fully understood, several factors can contribute to its development. Understanding these risk factors can help you take steps to manage and treat your RLS symptoms. In the next section, we will explore the diagnostic process for restless leg syndrome and how doctors diagnose this condition.

Restless Leg Syndrome Diagnosed – History of Dopamine Dysfunction can Cause RLS

If you suspect you have restless leg syndrome, speaking with your healthcare provider is essential. RLS can be diagnosed through physical examination, medical history, and discussion of symptoms. Restless leg syndrome is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

physical examination helps with diagnosis of restless leg syndrome
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Periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS) is a related condition that may be present in individuals with RLS. PLMS involves involuntary limb movements during sleep, which can worsen RLS symptoms. Discussing any PLMS symptoms with your doctor for a proper diagnosis is important.

Your doctor will also consider factors that can worsen RLS symptoms, such as certain medications and medical conditions. Blood tests may be conducted to determine if lack of iron contributes to RLS.

Examination of Symptoms

Your doctor will examine the symptoms you experience in your legs and may ask you to describe them in detail. RLS symptoms usually manifest as uncomfortable leg sensation, including an urge to move them. These sensations typically occur at rest and can interfere with sleep. The severity of symptoms can vary widely between individuals.

Your healthcare provider may also ask you to describe any factors that alleviate or worsen your RLS symptoms. This information can help with a proper diagnosis and the development of an effective treatment plan.

Factors that May Worsen RLS Symptoms

  • Inactivity
  • Stress
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Certain medications, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants
  • Pregnancy

It’s important to remember that RLS is a complex disorder, and there’s no one-size-fits-all diagnostic approach. Therefore, accurate examination and proper diagnosis are essential in developing an effective treatment plan.

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome – Eradicating Cause of RLS and Relieve the Symptoms

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes uncomfortable leg sensations, which can often lead to an irresistible urge to move those sides of the body. While doctors don’t know what causes RLS, they focus on addressing the symptoms to relieve individuals who experience this condition.

medication is used as treatment for restless leg syndrome
Photo Credit: jcomp

Several treatment options are available for RLS, including lifestyle changes, medications, and therapies. Below, we will discuss some of the most common strategies for managing RLS symptoms.

Lifestyle Changes

For some people with RLS, making simple lifestyle changes can significantly improve symptoms. These may include:

  • Establishing a regular sleep pattern
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • Exercising regularly, but avoiding strenuous activity before bed
  • Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine

These simple adjustments can help reduce symptoms and improve sleep quality for people with RLS.


Several medications may be prescribed to alleviate symptoms of RLS. Some commonly used medications include:

  • Dopamine agonists, which increase dopamine levels in the brain and can help relieve RLS symptoms
  • Anticonvulsants, which can help stabilize nerve cells in the brain and reduce symptoms
  • Opioids, can help make RLS symptoms dissipate but are typically only prescribed in severe cases

Discussing the potential risks and benefits of any medications with your doctor before starting a new treatment plan is important.


In addition to lifestyle changes and medications, several therapies may be used to manage symptoms of RLS. These may include:

  • Iron supplements, which can help alleviate symptoms in people with lack of iron in their body
  • Massage or heat therapy, which can help relax muscles and reduce symptoms
  • Compression stockings, which can help improve circulation and reduce symptoms
  • Periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS) treatment, which involves managing activities during sleep that may be associated with RLS symptoms

Your doctor may recommend one or more of these therapies based on your symptoms and needs.

While there is no known cure for RLS, several treatment options are available to alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. If you experience RLS, it is essential to discuss your symptoms with your doctor to determine the best course of treatment for you.

Living with Symptoms of Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome can be a challenging condition to navigate, especially for individuals with severe symptoms. It is a disorder that causes uncomfortable sensations in your legs, leading to a constant urge to move them. This urge can make it difficult to sit still, relax or fall asleep.

physical therapy can help with the treatment of restless leg syndrome
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If you experience RLS symptoms, it is essential to seek a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome from a medical professional. Once diagnosed, there are various treatment options that can help relieve symptoms and improve your overall quality of life.

Managing Severe RLS Symptoms

People with severe RLS symptoms may struggle to manage their condition daily. In some cases, RLS can cause the legs to twitch, making it challenging to perform routine tasks or work effectively. If you experience severe symptoms, seek treatment for RLS as soon as possible.

Tips for Managing RLS

For those living with RLS, there are several tips and tricks to help manage symptoms and reduce discomfort. One common strategy is to engage in light exercise and stretching, which can help alleviate the urge to move the legs. A warm bath or massage can provide temporary relief from RLS symptoms.

Seek Treatment for RLS

While there is no specific cure for restless leg syndrome, various treatments are available to help manage symptoms. These treatments can range from lifestyle changes to medication to therapy. Working with a medical professional to find the most effective treatment for your symptoms can help improve your overall quality of life.

It’s important to remember that RLS is a condition that can be managed with proper treatment and care. Don’t hesitate to seek assistance for managing your symptoms, and don’t let RLS interfere with your daily life.


What is the main cause of restless leg syndrome?

The exact cause of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is not known, but it’s often associated with genetic factors, especially if it starts at a younger age. Secondary RLS can be related to conditions such as lack of iron, kidney failure, pregnancy, or certain medications. Some people might also have a form of RLS linked with nerve damage in the legs due to diabetes or alcoholism.

What helps restless legs go away?

Lifestyle changes can be effective in reducing RLS symptoms, such as limiting caffeine and alcohol, maintaining regular sleep patterns, and engaging in moderate exercise. Leg massages, hot baths, heating pads or ice packs might also help. Some medications are available to manage severe cases, under the guidance of a healthcare professional.

Is restless leg syndrome a form of anxiety?

RLS isn’t a form of anxiety. However, there seems to be a connection between the two. Many people with RLS also have anxiety disorders, and anxiety can exacerbate RLS symptoms. Similarly, the discomfort and sleep disruption caused by RLS can lead to increased anxiety.

What causes restless leg syndrome and how do you stop it?

RLS can be idiopathic (no known cause) or secondary to conditions like iron deficiency, kidney failure, or certain medications. Stopping it involves lifestyle changes like regular sleep, moderate exercise, and reducing caffeine and alcohol. Warm baths, massages, heating or cooling packs might help. Medications may be required for severe cases, always under a healthcare professional’s supervision.

Can magnesium help restless leg syndrome?

Some studies suggest that magnesium may help alleviate RLS symptoms, especially in individuals with magnesium deficiency. It is believed to help relax muscles and support nerve function. However, one should consult with a healthcare provider before starting any supplement regimen.

When should I be worried about restless legs?

You should seek medical advice if RLS symptoms are severe, occur frequently, disrupt your sleep, affect your quality of life, or don’t improve with home remedies. It’s especially important to consult a healthcare provider if you have other medical conditions associated with RLS, like iron deficiency or kidney failure.