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Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

A condition that occurs while resting or lying in bed; it is characterized by an irresistible urgency to move the legs to obtain relief from a strange and uncomfortable sensation in the legs. NIH - National Cancer Institute

About Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the nervous system (the system consisting of your brain, spinal cord, and nerves).

For a doctor to diagnose RLS, you must have the following:

  • A very strong urge to move your legs. Often, RLS also causes unpleasant or painful feelings in your legs.
    • Your legs may feel itchy or tingly, or you may feel creeping, burning, pulling, aching, or throbbing.
    • Your legs may jerk or twitch.
    • These feelings can also happen in other parts of your body, such as your arms.
  • Symptoms get worse when sitting or lying down.
  • Symptoms get better or go away when you move, but come back once you sit or lie down again.
  • Symptoms are worse in the evening or at night.
    • This can make it hard to fall asleep or to stay asleep...

Read more about Restless Legs Syndrome

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Quality of life in restless legs syndrome: a systematic review of clinical trials and a critical review of instruments

Bibliographic details: Speight J, Howarth A.  Quality of life in restless legs syndrome: a systematic review of clinical trials and a critical review of instruments. Patient 2010; 3(3) : 185-203 Available from: http://ideas.repec.org/a/wkh/thepat/v3y2010i3p185-203.html

Meta-analysis of pramipexole in treatment of restless legs syndrome

Bibliographic details: Wang L, Xiao HB, Yan D, Su Y, Sun SG.  Meta-analysis of pramipexole in treatment of restless legs syndrome. Chinese Journal of Neurology 2012; 45(3): 182-187 Available from: http://eng.med.wanfangdata.com.cn/PaperDetail.aspx?qkid=zhsjk&qcode=zhsjk201203010

Gabapentin for restless legs syndrome: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Chen ZB, Wu Y, Lia XF, Liu Y, Ma MG, Liu QD, Tan MH.  Gabapentin for restless legs syndrome: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2012; 12(6): 727-733 Available from: http://www.cjebm.org.cn/oa/DArticle.aspx?type=view&id=201206019

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Summaries for consumers

Options for Treating Restless Legs Syndrome: A Review of the Research for Adults

This summary will cover: What RLS is Treatment options for RLS What researchers have found about RLS treatments

There is insufficient evidence to support the use of acupuncture for the symptomatic treatment of restless legs syndrome.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sensorimotor movement disorder characterized by uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an urge to move them. The syndrome is very common and its lifestyle impacts justify a search for more effective and acceptable interventions.

Iron for restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common medical condition that results in uncomfortable urges to move the legs, especially in the evening and at night, and often interferes with sleep. Low blood levels of iron are frequently seen in people who have RLS and the lack of iron may be part of the cause of RLS. Iron can be supplemented either in pill form or through injections into the bloodstream. This review was performed to see if iron supplements are effective in reducing the symptoms of RLS. Six studies of iron were included, which together involved only 192 subjects. Results from the studies were conflicting, with some studies showing that iron was not effective but others showing some help for patients' feelings of restlessness or discomfort. Because of the different ways in which the studies were done, we could not combine results from all of the studies to come up with an overall judgement of whether or not iron is effective. Two of the studies were limited to specific sub‐groups of RLS patients, who might be expected to respond to iron differently than would the RLS group as a whole. The study of RLS patients with severe kidney disease showed a benefit of iron therapy. The study of RLS patients with low blood levels of iron did not consistently show a benefit of iron therapy at all time points. Iron did not cause any more side effects than the placebo medication. More studies are needed before we will be able to determine whether iron therapy should be used for patients with RLS.

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More about Restless Legs Syndrome

Photo of an adult

Also called: Ekbom syndrome, Restless legs

Other terms to know:
Sleep, Sleep Deprivation, Sleep Disorders

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