Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Overview of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition that creates an irresistible urge to move your legs in order to relieve the uncomfortable sensation.

Signs and Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition, which produces an unpleasant feeling in the legs and creates an irresistible urge to move your legs in order to relieve that uncomfortable sensation.
Restless leg syndrome sensations are like, creeping, burning or crawling insects inside the legs. Moving legs from a rest position eases the unpleasant sensation temporarily.
The sensation usually occurs at night or in the evening when legs are at rest and may disrupt the sleep. Sensation happens mostly in the calf, but can occur at any point from thigh to the ankle.


It happens with 1 in 10 people at some stage during their lifetime. The disease is more common in females than males. Majority of the cases get recovered on their own with time.
Restless legs syndrome can be mild or severe depending on the severity of symptoms and how much unpleasant sensation it can produce.

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Types of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

RLS symptoms are described as unpleasant sensations in one or both legs. The main symptom is an urge to move the legs accompanied by other characteristics;

  • Night time twitching – causes the legs to kick and twitch while sleeping, known as periodic limb movement of sleep.
  • Sensations occur within the limb include;
  • Crawling
  • Throbbing
  • Creeping
  • Aching
  • Itching
  • Electric
  • Pulling

People find difficulty in explaining the RLS condition and often describe it as numbness or muscle cramps in the legs. At times, symptoms disappear and then come back after some time. Symptoms may change with severity.

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

There are two types of RLS based on their cause;

  • Primary RLS

Primary RLS is also known as familial RLS type. It is due to RLS family history, meaning you may have a genetic component of RLS. Primary RLS is the most common RLS type.

  • Secondary RLS

It occurs due to other underlying medical causes or by the use of certain medicines. Medical conditions include; kidney failure, iron deficiency, varicose veins, peripheral neuropathy, stress and environmental factors.


Risk Factors of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

The exact cause for restless leg syndrome is not known. However, researches showed that it may occur due to an imbalanced level of dopamine, a chemical in the brain that sends messages to control movement of muscle.
Other causes include;

  • Heredity

If the RLS condition occurs before 40 years of age, then you have family history of RLS. It is believed that some genes of RLS may pass to offspring.

  • Pregnancy

Some women experience RLS during the pregnancy which disappears after delivery. Hormonal changes during the pregnancy may increase the RLS signs and symptoms temporarily.



Risk factors for RLS include:

  • Women are at high risk than males
  • Middle age people
  • Some medicines may trigger RLS i.e. anti-nausea, antihistamine, antipsychotic and antidepressants.
  • RLS may stimulate by other underlying medical condition or sometimes accompany them, they include;
  • Peripheral neuropathy: nerve damage in hands and feet due to alcoholism or diabetes
  • Kidney failure: kidney failure leads to iron deficiency that in turn worsen the RLS symptoms.
  • Iron deficiency: iron deficiency due to heavy menses or blood loss by some reason can promote the RLS condition.
  • Spinal cord injury: lesions on the spinal cord due to injury produce the RLS sensations.

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) | When to Consult a Doctor

The diagnosis of restless pain syndrome completely depends on the patient's explanation. A doctor will diagnose RLS by taking your medical history and noticing signs and symptoms. There is no particular test for RLS diagnosis.
The diagnosis is very difficult in children as doctors totally rely on the patient's explanation of symptoms. The children find difficulty in explaining their RLS sensations. Therefore, it may be sometimes misdiagnosed as ‘attention deficit disorder’ or ‘growing pains’.

Doctors to treat Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Last updated on Tuesday 19/07/2022


Dr. Zakria Anwer

Hypertension Specialist, Diabetologist, Internal Medicine Specialist, Gastroenterologist, Sleep Medicine Specialist |

National Hospital (Faisalabad)Rs 1000

Medex ClinicRs 1000


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Highly Recommended


Dr. Muhammad Ali

Orthopedic Surgeon | joint replacement surgeon hip and knee, MBBS, FCPS, MCPS

Hameed Latif HospitalRs 3000

Shalamar HospitalRs 3000


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Highly Recommended


Dr. Rabia Shaheen

Physiotherapist | DPT, MPhil

Shalamar HospitalRs 1000


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Highly Recommended

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