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Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition characterized by unpleasant feelings in the legs that result in a person having an almost irresistible urge to move the legs. Symptoms usually begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity, and are partially or totally relieved by movement. There is no cure for this condition. However, current treatments can decrease symptoms and increase periods of restful sleep.

What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome, also known as restless legs or RLS, is a condition in which a person has unpleasant feelings or sensations in the legs. These feelings are described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful. Symptoms of restless legs syndrome often begin or worsen during periods of rest or inactivity, and are either partially or totally relieved by movement. RLS symptoms can disturb sleep, and they usually worsen with age.
Restless legs syndrome is generally a lifelong condition for which there is no cure. Current RLS treatments can decrease symptoms and increase periods of restful sleep. In addition, some people with RLS have remissions, which are periods in which their symptoms decrease or disappear for days, weeks, or months, although symptoms usually reappear. A diagnosis of RLS does not indicate the beginning of any other neurological disease.

How Common Is It?

Restless legs syndrome affects about 2 to 15 percent of Americans. However, it may be more common than we think -- some people with RLS do not seek treatment because they fear they won't be taken seriously, their symptoms are too mild, or they think their condition can't be treated.
Restless legs syndrome affects more women than men. It can start at any age. However, most people with RLS are middle-aged or older. People with restless legs syndrome are oftentimes misdiagnosed because it can be easily confused with other conditions. Children who have the condition may be misdiagnosed with hyperactivity or growing pains. Adults who have it may be misdiagnosed with nervousness, insomnia, stress, arthritis, muscle cramps, or aging.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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