Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome diagnosis

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease is a common disorder that causes what is often described as tingling, pulling, throbbing, itching, burning, aching or crawling sensations in the legs. These sensations result in an uncontrollable urge to move your legs.  

RLS can also occur in other parts of the body such as the arms or torso; however, these instances are less common.

Anyone can be at risk for developing RLS.  According to the Sleep Foundation, “RLS affects 5 to 10% of adults and 2 to 4% of children in the U.S. and it is found in women more often than men. People of all ages can develop RLS, but the most severe symptoms tend to occur in older adults.”

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome can include:

  • An irresistible urge to move the legs or arms
  • Discomfort in the legs or arms
  • Trouble staying asleep due to the urge to move your limbs
  • Periodic limb movement or leg twitching while you sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness due to sleep disruption

These symptoms most commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours and may increase in severity at night. They can also happen when you remain inactive or seated for extended periods. Symptoms typically go away in the morning.

Although the exact cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown, it is believed that genetics and environmental factors play a significant role.  RLS is often associated with other medical conditions such as:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Late-stage kidney disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy

RLS may also occur temporarily during pregnancy with most women developing the disorder during their third trimester.

Some medications such as anti-depressants, anti-nausea, and allergy drugs can contribute to the development of RLS.

A diagnosis for restless legs syndrome is determined after your medical and family history is assessed, a complete physical and neurological exam is conducted, and blood tests are ordered to rule out other possible conditions. Your doctor may also refer you to a sleep specialist for an evaluation.

Currently, there is no cure for restless legs syndrome.  However, there are treatments available to manage symptoms.  Your doctor may include the following treatments or therapies in your care plan: exercise, massages,  foot wraps, stress reduction, iron supplementation or prescription medications.

To schedule an appointment with a doctor at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, please call 718-206-7001.

All content of this newsletter is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult a medical professional before adopting any of the suggestions on this page. You must never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment based upon any content of this newsletter. PROMPTLY CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN OR CALL 911 IF YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY.