Restless Legs Syndrome

What is restless legs syndrome?
An individual with restless legs syndrome (RLS), also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease, has an uncontrollable urge to move their legs, usually dye to leg discomfort.  This typically happens in the evening hours or night time while sitting or lying down; moving may help to ease symptoms.

What are the main types of restless legs syndrome?
There are two types of narcolepsy: Primary and Secondary   
Primary (idiopathic) RLS: RLS without a known cause (may be hereditary).
Secondary RLS: May be associated with other medical conditions, such as iron deficiency, or use of specific medications.

What are the steps to getting diagnosed?
Each person's journey to becoming diagnosed with a sleep disorder is different; however, generally, an individual would first need to bring their concerns to their physician and potentially be referred to a sleep specialist if needed.  Bringing specific information, including detailed information on symptoms as well as concerns, is helpful.

RLS is generally diagnosed through an in-depth discussion of your symptoms and medical/family medical history.  Your physician may also order laboratory tests to rule out other medical conditions that may be causing secondary RLS and will also discuss medications to ensure symptoms are not a result of medication. An overnight sleep test may be performed if the diagnosis of RLS is uncertain.

How is restless legs syndrome typically treated?
Although there is no cure for RLS, there are several treatment options available to treat RLS, including medication, addressing other underlying medical conditions, and other lifestyle changes. Work with your physician to determine the best treatment option for you. 

Lifestyle changes: Limiting caffeine and alcohol, relaxing in a hot bath, taking iron supplements or initiating an exercise plan are all ways to help manage the symptoms of RLS.

Self-care: There are several activities you can participate in to alleviate the symptoms of RLS. Try taking walks, massaging the legs, yoga and stretching and other relaxation techniques. Please note, this is not a replacement for medical care, but are tools to utilize in conjunction with prescribed medication.

Medication: There are several medications available to help treat the symptoms of RLS. It should be noted that these drugs may cause daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, nausea, constipation and dependency. You should work with your medical team to find the best options for you. 

Secondary RLS may be associated with other medical conditions; treating underlying conditions may lessen RLS symptoms.

If you feel that you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your primary physician or a sleep specialist regarding your concerns.

*The information above does not constitute medical advice; you should talk with your physician or healthcare provider regarding your medical care, including appropriate treatment options.

Member Only Resource: Restless Legs Syndrome
This informational sheet provides additional information regarding restless legs syndrome and can be used as a resource for patients or for medical professionals to provide as supplemental information for their patients. AAHS members will have indefinite access to these informational sheets through the file archive on your member account.