Restless Legs Syndrome Home > Restless Legs Syndrome Causes

There are two types of restless legs syndrome (RLS): primary and secondary. In secondary RLS, certain medications and other diseases or conditions are often the causes. In primary RLS, the cause is unknown. However, a family history is present in 50 percent of primary RLS cases, so there may be a genetic component to the cause of restless legs syndrome.

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects about 2 to 15 percent of Americans, which is roughly about 12 million people. There are two types of restless legs syndrome: primary and secondary. Each type of RLS has a different cause.

Primary RLS

In most cases, the restless legs syndrome causes are not known. When no cause can be found, the condition is called primary restless legs syndrome. However, primary RLS tends to run in families. In fact, a family history of restless legs syndrome is seen in approximately 50 percent of primary cases, which suggests that there is a genetic form of the disorder. People with familial RLS tend to be younger when symptoms start and tend to have a slower progression of the condition. Primary restless legs syndrome is usually a lifelong condition.

Secondary RLS

In cases of secondary RLS, the cause is known. Restless leg syndrome causes can include:
  • Another disease or condition
  • Medications
  • Certain substances.
Disease or Condition
Some of the diseases and conditions that can lead to restless legs syndrome are:
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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