Restless Leg Syndrome: Cause, Symptom, and Treatment

Restless Leg Syndrome can make for a miserable life. However, it does not have to rule your life. Learn the causes, symptoms, and management measures.

Those who have restless leg syndrome, also known as RLS, find that their legs feel as though they can never sit still. This is especially true when in a sitting position or when lying down. Since the person can usually not be still, this is also considered a sleep disorder, as it can interfere with sleep. Those who have RLS can develop this at any age and as a person ages, they usually find that the RLS gets worse. Those who deal with this day in and day out often find that they are drowsy throughout the day and that they have problems with traveling. The good news is that there are several ways in which a person can help to ensure that RLS is not controlling their lives.

Symptoms of RLS

Those who have RLS often find that they experience uncomfortable feelings in their legs. These feelings are usually described as pins and needles, an itchy feel or even as though something is crawling up their legs. When a person is resting, is when these symptoms are worse, hence the name of the syndrome. Those who do have these symptoms can have a mild or severe case, it really depends on the person. Those who have severe symptoms are often plagued with sleep disorders as well, as their legs keep them awake throughout the night, or simply does not allow the person to get comfortable enough to actually sleep.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

It is estimated that around 10% of the US population suffers from RLS. More women than men are affected; however, it can affect anyone, at any age. Though, older adults are often more susceptible to this. The good news is that once RLS is diagnosed, it can be treated with success. The causes for RLS can vary.

  • One of the most common causes is hereditary. Those who have parents who have this are at an increased chance of having this themselves.
  • Women who are pregnant can develop RLS, which is most commonly seen in the last trimester. However, most women after giving birth find that the RLS is no longer an issue.
  • There are a few medical conditions that can be accompanied by RLS or make RLS worse. For example, iron deficiency can make RLS worse or be the cause of RLS. While, peripheral neuropathy and kidney failure can also be the cause of RLS.

Can Restless Leg Syndrome Be Diagnosed?

There is no set test that is used to diagnose RLS; thus diagnosis can take a few trips to the doctor. However, doctors will rule out other causes of these symptoms with blood tests. Most doctors diagnose a patient based on the symptoms they are experiencing and their family history. Doctors also look at medications to ensure that this is not the result of something that a person may be taking. When being diagnosed with this, it can take several other tests to rule out other issues, while the doctor considers all the symptoms that a person is feeling.

How to Treat RLS

There are several ways in which RLS can be treated. Many people find that they can use home remedies to treat this on their own and suffer less from restless leg syndrome. While others find that they have to go to their doctor to get prescription medications.

Home Remedies

  • Adopting good sleep habits such as getting a set number of hours of sleep each night and avoiding any type of stimulants such as chocolate, sugar or coffee
  • Having the right exercise routine during the day that is not overworking the leg muscles and is not too late in the day, since either can make symptoms worse
  • Taking over the counter pain relief in order to help with the twitching and pain associated with RLS. Things such as Ibuprofen which can help to decrease the sensitivity that the person may be feeling are helpful
  • Using warm and cool packs and alternating these for the best effect
  • Learning to relax the body through the use of meditation or yoga as stress has been proven to make RLS worse in many patients. Learning how to relax the muscles with a warm bath and/or massage
  • Eliminating or cutting back on alcohol use, as this has been shown to increase the symptoms of RLS. Not smoking as this can affect how bad the syndrome really is
  • Taking a good multivitamin can help to ensure that the RLS is not caused by vitamin deficiencies in the body
  • Avoiding sitting in the same position for too long as this can make the symptoms even worse


There are also medications that can be taken, which is what a person must do if they find that changing their lifestyle has not helped. The medications which can be help are listed below:

  • Iron supplements can be taken if it is found the person has low iron which could be causing the RLS.
  • Dopaminergic drugs which work on the dopamine neurotransmitters in the brain. Such drugs would be Mirapex, Neupro and Requip, all of which have been approved by the FDA to use in RLS patients.
  • Benzodiazepines are also given to those with RLS who are having trouble with sleep.
  • Pain relievers are given to those who are having intense pain associated with RLS.
  • Anti-seizure drugs, known as anticonvulsants, are given to help with the tremors that a person may feel in the legs. Common types of these drugs are Tegretol, Nuerontin, Lyrica and Horizant.

It is important to note that not every medication is going to help an RLS patient. In fact, what helps one person may do nothing for someone else who has the same issues. Medical treatment is often a trial and error process to find which drugs will help to decrease the symptoms and help the person to sleep.

Understanding Restless Legs Syndrome (Health Guru):



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