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Sleep Breath. 2012 Dec;16(4):987-1007. doi: 10.1007/s11325-011-0606-x. Epub 2011 Oct 26.

Restless legs syndrome: a comprehensive overview on its epidemiology, risk factors, and treatment.

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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN 37232, USA.



Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is underdiagnosed and poorly understood by clinicians and the general public alike; accordingly, a broad literature review with information most relevant to general practice is needed to help dispel misconceptions and improve level of care.


Specifically, this review comprehensively provides an epidemiological analysis of RLS and examines the risk factors and treatment options for RLS by compiling the findings of past RLS studies. These RLS studies were identified through a retrospective PubMed search. The epidemiological analysis was conducted by calculating a weighted mean average of all the relevant general population RLS prevalence studies, separated into geographical/racial categories.


A comprehensive analysis of RLS epidemiological studies finds the prevalence rate of RLS to be 5-15% in the general population with 2.5% of adults having symptoms severe enough to require medical intervention. Some of the risk factors for RLS include female gender, pregnancy, low iron levels, lower socioeconomic status, poor health, elderly age, comorbidity with Parkinson's disease, positive family history of RLS, and comorbidity with psychiatric disorders. A wide array of treatment options exist for RLS including pharmacological and nonpharmacologic interventions.


Clinicians' understanding of RLS enigma has recently improved due to the increased intensity of RLS research over the past decade. This review summarizes the current findings in the RLS field as well as providing guidelines for future RLS-related research.

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