Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder characterized by a complaint of a strong, nearly irresistible urge to move one’s legs and/or arms. The urge to move is often but not always accompanied by other uncomfortable sensations felt deep inside the limbs or by a feeling that is often difficult or impossible to put into words. Although the legs are most prominently affected, “restless legs” is a misnomer in that from 20-50% of afflicted individuals describe similar sensations in their arms. Nearly half of adult patients describe their sensations as painful. Most individuals afflicted with RLS will manifest varying degrees/severities of Periodic Leg/Limb Movements during sleep (PLMs, described elsewhere in our website), but not vice-versa (i.e., a relatively small percentage of individuals manifesting PLMs in their overnight recordings will voice complaints suggestive of RLS).
Sleep disruption is reported in 60-90% of individuals afflicted with RLS, is typically the most troubling symptoms, and if often the primary reason for seeking medical care. Prevalence is twice as high in women than in men. Most research indicates that prevalence increases with age up to 60-70 years, except in Asian populations wherein an age-associated increase has not been found.
RLS sensations are worse at rest, decrease or are relieved with movement, and predominantly occur in the evening or night. Increased rates of RLS are found among individuals diagnosed as afflicted with a broad range of disorders, a partial list of which includes Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD), depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), narcolepsy, Parkinson’s Disease, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, diabetes mellitus, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, obesity, thyroid disease, heart disease, migraine, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and peripheral neuropathy. A host of prescription and over-the-counter medications can cause or worsen RLS.
Clinically, “significant” RLS is defined by RLS symptoms causing substantial distress, sleep disturbance, or impairment one or more aspects of daytime function/performance. Although the specific cause(s) of RLS remains the subject of continuing world-wide research, many effective treatments are now available that can bring about much-needed relief. Our Center Sleep Specialists are well-trained in the diagnosis of RLS and the associated Periodic Limb/Leg Movement Disorder and in the provision of treatments that reduce/eliminate the disagreeable, sensations (and leg/limb movements) that often hinder or preclude a restful night of sleep.