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Restless Legs Syndrome

Cause of Restless Legs Syndrome

There are two types of restless legs syndrome: primary and secondary. In primary restless legs syndrome, the cause is not known. In secondary restless legs syndrome, the cause is another disease or condition or, sometimes, a certain medication. In most cases, the cause of restless legs syndrome is not known. However, in half of all cases, there is a family history of the condition.
Restless legs syndrome may be linked to the following factors or conditions:
  • Pregnancy, especially in the last three months. However, the symptoms usually go away about four weeks after having the baby.
  • Iron deficiency anemia (low iron levels). However, after correcting this condition, symptoms may lessen.
  • Chronic diseases, such as kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, or peripheral neuropathy (loss of feeling or numbness in the hands and feet).
(Click Restless Legs Syndrome Causes for more information.)

Common Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome are not the same for every person. They range from uncomfortable to painful and can vary in frequency. Some people may have periods when RLS does not cause problems, while others may have severe symptoms every day.
Common symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:
  • Unpleasant or uncomfortable feelings or sensations in the legs often described as creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful that often produce an irresistible urge to move the legs. These feelings most often occur deep inside the leg, between the knee and ankle. While rare, they can also occur in the feet, thighs, arms, and hands. Most of these feelings involve both sides of the body, although they can happen on just one side of the body.
  • Leg discomfort that occurs and gets worse when lying down or sitting for long periods of time. Long car trips, sitting in the movies, long-distance flights, and having a cast on can trigger restless legs syndrome.
  • The need for constant movement of the legs (or other affected body parts) to lessen discomfort. People may pace the floor, move their legs when sitting, and toss and turn in bed.
  • Having leg and sometimes arm movements that you can't control when sleeping.
  • Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Sleepiness or tiredness during the day.
Certain medications, such as drugs for nausea, seizures, and psychosis, as well as some cold and allergy medicines, may make symptoms worse. Talk with your healthcare provider if you are taking any prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

(Click RLS Symptoms for more information.)
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Information on Restless Legs Syndrome

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