Health Information

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. RLS affects about 12 million individuals in the US.

Treatment for RLS:

Specific treatment for restless legs syndrome will be determined by your physician based on:
  • your age, overall health, and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference