What is Restless Leg Syndrome?

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  • Written By: Michael Pollick
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 22 October 2018
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Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition affecting as much as 15% of the general population. Restless leg syndrome is characterized by a creepy or crawling sensation deep inside the sufferer's legs or other extremities which can only be alleviated by movement. Once the limb has been flexed or stretched, the compulsion to stand up or walk is temporarily reduced but rarely eliminated. Restless leg syndrome can lead to other conditions such as sleep deprivation or involuntary nighttime leg movements.

The exact cause of restless leg syndrome has not been fully determined. It can affect children, adults or seniors, although it seems to favor the elderly. Females are more likely to contract restless leg syndrome than males, but there is no clear explanation as to why.

Some neurological researchers believe restless leg syndrome may run in families, but a genetic component has not yet been established. Restless leg syndrome is considered to be an idiopathic condition, meaning it has no known cause. It can strike at any time and range from mild to severe in intensity.


It has been suggested that some cases of restless leg syndrome are caused in part by a vitamin or mineral deficiency. Supplements containing iron are often suggested as a home remedy for restless leg syndrome symptoms. Other causes may be connected to an onset of diabetes or a nervous condition called peripheral neuropathy. Physicians may have to eliminate a number of other neuromuscular conditions before properly diagnosing restless leg syndrome. Many times it is confused with 'growing pains' in small children or muscular sclerosis in young adults.

In 2005, the United States' Food and Drug Administration approved the drug Requip, considered the first drug to directly treat restless leg syndrome. Other treatments for restless leg syndrome concentrate more on behavior modification and lifestyle adjustments. Sufferers are encouraged to increase their level of daily exercise or to find ways to work through painful episodes. It is very important to re-establish normal sleep patterns in order to avoid other complications.

There are a number of support groups for restless leg syndrome sufferers, both online and in real life. Local neurologists should know where more information on restless leg syndrome can be found.



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