Symptoms and Signs of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 8/6/2021

Doctor's Notes on Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that involves a part of the nervous system that affects movements of the legs. It often occurs during sleep and is considered a sleep disorder. People with RLS have strange sensations in their legs (and sometimes arms) and an uncontrollable urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations. These sensations typically worsen when at rest, especially when lying in bed.

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome include strange itching, tingling, or "crawling" sensations occurring deep within the legs; sensations sometimes occur in the arms and typically occur during the night, a compelling urge to move the limbs to relieve the sensations, restlessness (floor pacing, tossing and turning in bed, rubbing the legs), sleep disturbances, daytime sleepiness; involuntary, repetitive, periodic, jerking limb movements that occur either in sleep or while awake and at rest.

What Is the Treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome?

Treatment for restless legs syndrome that is related to another condition usually involves treating the underlying condition. If restless legs syndrome is not caused by an underlying medical condition, treatment options may include:

  • Medications, including drugs that affect dopamine levels in the brain, or drugs affecting signaling through calcium channels
  • Sleep medications or muscle relaxants to improve sleep quality
  • Opioid medications (in certain cases)
  • Lifestyle modifications to promote good sleep hygiene

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.