What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a cause of insomnia
(trouble sleeping) for many people. RLS sufferers experience
aching, twitching, tingling, burning, or prickling
sensations in the lower leg muscles when they lie in bed or
sometimes when they are sitting down. The discomfort is
relieved only by getting up and standing or walking.
How does it occur?
The exact cause of RLS is not known. It tends to run in
families. It is more common after middle age and occurs more
frequently in women than in men. Many people with RLS can
recall "growing pains" in their legs during childhood. It
may be that a nerve malfunction is involved. RLS has also
been linked with alcohol dependence, smoking, too much
caffeine (usually from drinking coffee), rheumatoid
arthritis, uremia, anemia, pregnancy and diabetes. Use of
some medicines may make symptoms worse.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms may include:
aching, twitching, tingling, burning, prickling in
the lower leg when you are lying down or sitting
relief from the symptoms when you stand up or walk
How is it diagnosed?
The diagnosis of RLS is based on your medical history.
Your health care provider will probably examine you and may
order blood tests or other tests to check for an underlying
medical problem, such as anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, or
diabetes. Sometimes nerve conduction study is necessary.
How is it treated?
Your health care provider can prescribe medicine to
relieve the symptoms and allow you to sleep. Requip or
Mirapex, drugs usually used for Parkinson's disease,
is often prescribed.
For many people who have RLS, it is a great relief just
to learn that there are other RLS sufferers like themselves
and that they are not alone.
How can I take care of myself?
Follow your health care provider's advice for relief
of your RLS symptoms.
Stretch or massage the leg muscles before going to
Practice relaxation methods.
Wear long socks to bed.
Use a hot water bottle or cold compresses on the
painful area before you go to sleep.
Take a hot bath before bedtime.
Avoid or cut back on caffeine (coffee, tea, cocoa,
Avoid or cut back on alcohol.
Improve your general health. Eat a healthy diet.
For more information about restless legs syndrome, visit
the Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation Web site: