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Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences unpleasant sensations in the legs, which are described as:

  • creeping
  • crawling
  • tingling
  • pulling
  • painful

These sensations usually occur in the calf area, but may be felt anywhere from the thigh to the ankle. One or both legs may be affected. For some people, the sensations are also felt in the arms. People with RLS have an irresistible urge to move the affected limb when the sensations occur.

Some patients, however, have no definite sensation, except for the need to move. Sleep problems are common with RLS because of the difficulty it causes in getting to sleep.

What causes RLS?

The cause of RLS is still unknown. Some cases are believed to be inherited, some cases have been associated with nerve damage in the legs due to diabetes, kidney problems or alcoholism. RLS can also be a side effect of a pinched nerve root in the lower back.

What are the symptoms of RLS?

Sensations occur when the person with RLS lies down or sits for prolonged periods of time, causing:

  • the need to move the legs for temporary relief of symptoms by:

    • stretching or bending.
    • rubbing the legs.
    • tossing or turning in bed.
    • getting up and pacing.
  • a definite worsening of the discomfort when lying down, especially when trying to fall asleep at night, or during other forms of inactivity, including just sitting.
  • a tendency to experience the most discomfort late in the day and at night.

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