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RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome – Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatments

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RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome is actually a disorder in a part of the nervous system which causes the urge to move your legs. As it interfaces with your sleep, it is also known as a sleep disorder.


People suffering restless legs syndrome suffering from uncomfortable feelings in their legs (sometimes on arms or other body parts) and irresistible feeling to move legs to relieve sensations.  In this condition, you will suffer from creepy crawly, pins or needles, and itchy feelings in your legs. Usually, the sensations are worst when you rest, especially when you are sitting or lying.

The severity can be mild or intolerable. Some of the common symptoms can go and come and severity can be varying. Generally, the symptoms are worse at night and in the evening.  Symptoms are likely to cause severe sleep disruption at night and it can drastically impair your quality of life.

restless-legs syndrome

Who Develops RLS?

 RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome affects around 10% of the population in the US alone. It usually affects both male and females but it is common in women and it may affect them at any age, including young children. But it affects middle-aged or older women more. RLS is often misdiagnosed or unrecognized. If the symptoms are mild or intermittent, it is particularly true. Once it is diagnosed properly, it can be treated well.


In a lot of cases, doctors really aren’t able to know the cause of this condition. But they suspect that genes must be responsible for it. Around half of people suffering RLS also have a family history. Here are some other factors responsible for the worsening or development of restless legs syndrome –

Medications – There are some types of medications responsible for worsening RLS symptoms, such as antipsychotic drugs, antidepressants, anti-nausea drugs, and allergy and cold medications that contain sedating antihistamines.

Chronic Diseases There are certain medical conditions and chronic diseases like Parkinson’s disease, iron deficiency, diabetes, kidney failure, and peripheral neuropathy often responsible for worsening RLS symptoms. Treating such type of conditions often relieves some symptoms.

Pregnancy Especially in last trimester, some women may experience RLS in pregnancy. Usually, symptoms go away within a month.

Sleep deprivation and alcohol use are some other factors. They may often make them worse and trigger symptoms. Avoiding alcohol use and improving sleep may also help relieve symptoms.


When it comes to diagnosing RLS, there is no medical test required. But doctors may use some medical exams and blood tests to rule out certain conditions. The diagnosis of this condition is based on the symptoms of the patient and answers about their family history with same symptoms, the presence of other medical conditions or symptoms, medication use, or problems with sleepiness in daytime.


In order to treat RLS, doctors will try to ease symptoms. For people with moderate or mild restless legs syndrome, they have to make lifestyle changes like establishing proper sleep patterns, starting a regular exercise program and decreasing the use of alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can be helpful. Treatment of RLS-associated problem may also provide proper relief of symptoms.

restless leg syndrome

Some other non-drug RLS treatments are –

  • Proper sleep habits
  • Leg massages
  • Vibrating pad
  • Healing pads, hot baths, or ice packs which are applied to your legs

Medications may help you to treat RLS treatments. But there are some drugs may help you.  Actually, a drug which relieves symptoms in a person may not be suitable for another person. In some cases, a drug which works for some time may no longer be effective over time.

Drugs to Treat RLS Syndrome

Though there is no treatment for  RLS or Restless Legs Syndrome, these medications can be helpful to control the severity, improve sleep and reduce symptoms.

  • Benzodiazepines, a kind of sedative medications and it may be helpful to improve sleep. But it can cause drowsiness in daytime.
  • Dopaminergic drugs that work on neurotransmitter dopamine in your brain. Neupro, Mirapex, and Requip are approved by FDA to treat moderate to severe RLS syndrome. Levodopa may also be used to treat this problem.
  • Narcotic pain relievers are prescribed for severe pain
  • Anti-seizure or anticonvulsant drugs like Lyrica, Tegretol, Neurontin and Horizant are also helpful.

Home Remedies

If you are suffering RLS or restless legs syndrome, you may accept that the pulling or tugging feeling may occur in your legs. You may feel overwhelming urge to move your legs, particularly at night. It can be really difficult to sleep. Here are some of the natural remedies to get some relief, though there is no cure –

Iron Deficiency of iron might be associated with RLS. So, your doctors may recommend iron supplements.

Proper Sleep Routine Improper sleep pattern can also be responsible for worsening your RLS symptoms. You may go to bed every night at the same time and wake up at the same time every morning. It may be helpful to sleep a bit letter and get up later to enjoy deep sleep. You should keep your bedroom dark, cool and comfortable. Keep the computer and TV away from your bedroom.

SupplementsThere is still a lack of research to support it but there are some people who enjoyed the benefits of magnesium, folic acid, and vitamin B12.

Massage – Massaging your muscles, especially calves may be helpful to ease your symptoms and pain. You have to massage just before bed to find out if it is helpful to get more restful sleep at night.

Change the Temperature – You should soak in the warm bath or get a cool shower before sleep. You may try an ice pack or heating pad on your legs. Change in treatment may be helpful.

Stress Relief Stress can make your RLS worsen your symptoms and flare it up. So, you have to calm your anxiety and relax. You can try yoga, deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.

Exercise Mild, regular exercise throughout the day can be helpful. You can try some stretching workout or take a quick walk before sleep. Don’t work out too hard.