Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that is fairly common but often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. It may affect up to 12,000,000 people in the United States. It is characterized primarily by sensory symptoms and a movement disorder. The 4 primary features of restless syndrome as defined by the International Restless Leg Syndrome Study Group in 1995 are:

(1) The desire to move the legs in association with unusual or uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs, usually in the calves; in some cases the arms may also be affected. The sensations are usually described as creeping, burning, tingling, cramping, aching, pulling, crawling or water flowing deep within the affected extremities.

(2) Motor restlessness in a response to or an effort to relieve unusual sensations or discomfort.  Such movements are often repetitive and may include pacing, rocking, shaking, tossing and turning in bed, stretching, bending, marching in place or repetitive exercises such as walking on a treadmill.

(3) Symptoms become worse while at rest and may be temporarily diminished by voluntary movements of the affected limb.

(4) Symptoms occur most frequently during the evening or early part of the night (for example, between 6 p.m. and 4 a.m.) and often interfere with sleep.

The diagnosis is made based on the presence of these clinical criteria.  There is no blood test or scan that will make the diagnosis.  This disorder is sometimes be associated with a related condition called periodic leg movements of sleep (PLMS).  The mainstay of treatment for RLS is the use of medications, sometimes in combination to achieve symptom control.