Restless Leg Syndrome

What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that is characterized by the inability of an individual's legs to be comfortable while inactive. Also known as Willis - Ekbom disease, RLS symptoms can include leg twitching at night, worsening limb movement/sensations as the day progresses, and an inability to stay asleep. It can be especially irritating to those affected by it because it often forces the individual to stop whatever they're doing to relieve symptoms. Whenever RLS interrupts their activities, sufferers report that they will either pace the room, toss and turn in bed, or move in any number of other ways to regain their comfort. The level of irritation and overall severity is generally dependent on the patient - some report the sensation as being mildly annoying and easy to combat. On the other hand, some patients will note that RLS is painful and they will do whatever it takes to alleviate it.


At the moment, there is little known about what causes restless legs syndrome, though there has been some research that suggests an iron deficiency, anti-nausea drugs (along with some other medications), neuropathy, and substance abuse (alcohol, nicotine, caffeine) can all cause health conditions like RLS. Additionally, patients with RLS can expect to have a period in the early morning where they function normally. Though the severity of RLS increases as the day goes on, becoming unbearable for some by the evening, there have been several cases of remission. For short periods of time, those diagnosed with RLS may experience no symptoms whatsoever. This often does not last for long and is typical of the early stages of this disorder. Patients with RLS are also reported to experience another condition called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) in 80% of diagnoses. PLMD is similar to other sleep disorders in that it usually occurs in light non-REM sleep. The individual will experience repetitive limb moments while sleeping.


Treatment for restless leg is treated most commonly using lifestyle changes. Aerobic exercises, reducing the usage of alcohol/tobacco/coffee, and establishing a set sleep pattern are all ways to reduce the impact of RLS. Along with this, patients may also opt to take iron supplements and anti-seizure drugs to further lessen the effects, but these have varying success rates. Finally, it is also possible to treat RLS by moving the affected limbs until relief is felt, though this is obviously a short-term fix.