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Restless Legs Syndrome



Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nerve problem. It is an urge to move the legs that you can’t control.


The cause is unknown. It may be due to your genes. In some cases, it can be from health problems or certain medicines.

Risk Factors

RLS is more common in women. It can happen at any age, but happens more often in adults.

Things that raise your risk are:

  • Certain medications, such as antidepressants and antihistamines
  • Pregnancy
  • Family history

Certain long-term diseases may lead to RLS. These are:


You may have:

  • An urge to move the legs
  • Feelings of pins and needles, creeping, pulling, prickling, pins and needles, or pain in the legs
  • Symptoms that get worse at night

People with RLS often have insomnia, which may be severe.


The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. The diagnosis is based mainly on your symptoms. There is no test for RLS.

Tests to check for health problems that may trigger RLS are:

  • Blood tests
  • Monitoring of leg activity
  • Sleep studies


There is no cure for RLS. Treatments are aimed at relieving or reducing symptoms.

Treatment for Mild Cases of RLS

Mild cases can be treated with self care:

  • Massage your legs.
  • Use a heating pad or ice pack.
  • Take a hot bath.
  • Do not use tobacco, alcohol, or caffeine.
  • Follow a sleep routine.
  • Begin a safe exercise program with the advice of your doctor.
  • Avoid the use of medications that may worsen RLS.

Treatment for Problems That May Trigger RLS

Treating problems that may trigger RLS can ease symptoms or make them go away:

Treatment for Severe Cases of RLS


Dopamine agonists are the only drugs that are approved to treat RLS. They are thought to be the most helpful type of medicine for it.

Other medicines may be used to help control symptoms. Some medicines are high blood pressure medicine, antiseizure medicine, and opioids. The medicine you are given will be based on your symptoms and health history.


There is no way to prevent RLS.


National Sleep Foundation

Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation


Canadian Sleep Society

Health Canada


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Last reviewed May 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD  Last Updated: 6/18/2018