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Sleep Disorders

Restless Legs Syndrome

Uninterrupted sleep is taken for granted by millions of Americans, but for those with restless legs syndrome, getting a good night's sleep can be a challenge. Restless legs syndrome wreaks havoc on nighttime sleep patterns and quality of lifestyle.

Persons with restless legs syndrome experience uncomfortable sensations in the lower extremities accompanied by an uncontrollable urge to move their legs during rest. This occurs most commonly at night and can interfere with the ability to fall asleep. While it is estimated that 20 million people have restless legs syndrome, the number may be much higher.

Some people do not recognize the specific symptoms as abnormal, and have difficulty figuring out why they are constantly tired during the day. Others are very aware of their condition, but do not seek medical care. Due to these reasons, and a general lack of awareness, restless legs syndrome is under-diagnosed. People who have restless legs syndrome are understandably exhausted and struggle to make it through each day.

Many with restless legs syndrome complain of leg discomfort often described as a creeping or crawling sensation, though a long list of terms and phrases have been used to describe the sensations. An irresistible urge to move or kick their legs is typical and the symptoms are often relieved by movement but tend to reappear again with rest. The cause of the disorder is not known in the most cases, but several medications and conditions have been associated with restless legs syndrome. Some of these include medications for mood, nausea, and allergies; and conditions such as peripheral neuropathy, renal failure, pregnancy, and low iron levels. Excessive caffeine use and nicotine are known to aggravate restless legs syndrome.

Individuals with symptoms of restless legs syndrome should see their Physician. If restless legs syndrome is suspected, potential remedies as simple as lifestyle and diet changes, or adjusting medications, may help. In addition, there are a number of medications that are highly effective at relieving the symptoms for more significant cases.

Referral to a Sleep Specialist or a Neurologist may help in evaluating and treating this condition.

Find out more: Seeking Rest for People with Restless Leg Syndrome

This article is based on information provided by The Ohio State University Medical Center Media Relations Office and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Mar 21, 2014

Karen M Thomas, DO Karen M Thomas, DO
Formerly:
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Dennis   Auckley, MD Dennis Auckley, MD
Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University