Restless legs syndrome (RLS)


Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) manifests as a strong urge to move the legs, often triggered by discomfort sensation in the legs. It usually occurs during evening or nighttime when sitting or lying down, with movement offering temporary relief. RLS can start at any age and worsen with time, affecting sleep and daily activities.

Managing RLS involves adopting self-care habits and lifestyle changes, with medication often providing relief for many sufferer.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.

Types of RLS

There are two types of restless legs syndrome:

  • Early onset: Typically diagnosed before the age of 45, this form of RLS often has a familial pattern and advances gradually over time.
  • Late onset: Characterized by a faster progression, this type of RLS is diagnosed after the age of 45.


The primary indication of restless legs syndrome is a compelling need to move the legs. It is typical to encounter:

  • Uncomfortable feelings that start when you’re resting. The sensation in the legs usually starts when you’ve been sitting or lying down for a long period. It could occur when seated in a vehicle, an aircraft, or a theater.
  • Comfort through mobility. RLS becomes less intense as you move. Walking, pacing, leg jiggling, and stretching can all help with symptoms.
  • A worsening of the symptoms at night. Most symptoms happen at night.
  • Leg twitches during night. Periodic limb movement of sleep is a more prevalent condition that may be linked to RLS. Leg twitches and kicks may occur during the course of the night due to this condition.

Patients commonly characterize RLS symptoms as intense and uncomfortable sensations in the legs or feet, typically occurring bilaterally. In rarer cases, these sensations can extend to the arms.

These feelings are perceived internally within the leg rather than on the surface of the skin. They’re often characterized as.

  • Itching
  • Aching
  • Electric
  • Crawling
  • Creeping
  • Pulling
  • Throbbing

At times, individuals may find it challenging to articulate the sensations associated with RLS. Typically, those affected do not liken the experience to muscle cramps or numbness. However, there is a consistent portrayal of an urge to move the legs. Fluctuations in symptom severity are common. Symptoms may intermittently subside for periods before recurring.

RLS has the potential to disrupt sleep, induce daytime drowsiness, and impact overall quality of life. If you experience symptoms of restless legs syndrome, it’s advisable to consult your doctor.


The exact cause of restless legs syndrome often eludes identification. Researchers hypothesize that an imbalance in the brain neurotransmitter dopamine might play a role. Dopamine is responsible for transmitting signals that regulate muscle movement.


In some cases, RLS exhibits a familial pattern, particularly when the onset occurs before the age of 40. Researchers have pinpointed specific locations on chromosomes where genes associated with RLS might reside.


Pregnancy or hormonal fluctuations can exacerbate symptoms of RLS. For some individuals, RLS may manifest for the first time during pregnancy, particularly in the later stages. Nonetheless, symptoms typically resolve post-delivery.

Risk factors

RLS can arise at any age, including childhood, but becomes more prevalent as individuals age. Furthermore, it tends to affect women more frequently than men. Typically, RLS is not indicative of a severe underlying medical issue; however, it can occasionally coincide with other conditions such as:

  • Peripheral neuropathy. Chronic illnesses like diabetes and alcoholism can occasionally cause damage to the nerves in the hands and feet.
  • A shortage of iron. RLS can be brought on by or made worse by iron deficiency, which is the body’s low iron levels. Individuals who have experienced bleeding in the intestines or stomach in the past may be iron deficient. Those who frequently donate blood or have heavy menstrual cycles may also be affected by deficiencies.
  • Kidney failure. Iron deficiency, frequently accompanied by anemia, is a possibility if you have kidney failure. Iron stores in the blood might drop when renal function is impaired. RLS may be brought on by or made worse by these and other alterations in body chemistry.
  • Problems with the spinal cord. RLS has been connected to spinal cord injury or damage. RLS development is often exacerbated by prior spinal cord anesthesia, such as a spinal block.
  • Parkinson’s disease. RLS is more common in those with Parkinson’s disease who also use drugs known as dopaminergic agonists.