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What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless Legs Syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an impulsive reaction to move the legs. It is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease.


Restless Legs Syndrome is considered to be a sleep disorder as it usually occurs or becomes worse during resting phases. You may find it difficult to sleep or sit for long periods of time. The situation can get worse if you do not receive treatment. Over time, lack of sleep can cause problems at work or at home.


Who suffers from Restless Legs Syndrome? 

It is sometimes difficult to recognize Restless legs syndrome, especially if the symptoms are mild or do not occur frequently. But once it is diagnosed, treatment can often stop it.


Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

People with RLS experience unusual sensations in their legs such as: 

  • itchiness
  • cramps
  • skirmishes
  • aches
  • palpitations or tingling
  • a strong desire to move the legs so that these sensations disappear


This condition can also occur in other areas such as the arms, chest or head. Symptoms usually appear on both sides of the body. 


Symptoms of RLS vary from moderate to severe. They can come and go, and may vary in severity from one episode to another. Symptoms are usually most severe in the evening and at night. For some people, symptoms can cause severe sleep disturbances that can significantly affect their quality of life.

Symptoms usually disappear in the morning.


Causes of Restless leg syndrome

The causes are still unknown. The family history can have an impact, in fact, almost half of the people with RLS also have a family member with RLS.


Restless Legs Syndrome may also be linked to one of the following conditions: 

Chronic diseases 

Iron deficiency, Parkinson’s disease, kidney failure or kidney disease, diabetes and peripheral neuropathy.


Some medications can make symptoms worse, including anti-nausea medications, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and allergy medications that contain antihistamines.


Some women develop RLS during pregnancy. Symptoms usually disappear within a month.


Sleep disorders such as apnea can trigger or worsen symptoms. Alcohol, tobacco and caffeine consumption can also cause or worsen symptoms.


RLS can affect your health and your quality of life. If you suffer from RLS and chronic sleep deprivation, it can increase your risk of :

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • diabetes
  • kidney disease
  • depression
  • premature death


Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome

There is no medical test that can detect RLS. 

5 criteria to establish an RLS diagnosis :

  • A strong urge to move the legs (uncomfortable or unusual sensations)
  • Sensations that begin or worsen during rest
  • Feelings that disappear, partially or completely, when you move
  • Sensations that begin or worsen in the evening
  • Leg cramps, arthritis or muscle pain, may also be common

A specialist can perform a lab test to exclude other conditions. A neurological examination is performed to detect nerve damage or blood vessel problems. Polysomnography (sleep study) may indicate if you have other sleep disorders that may cause RLS.


Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome

There is no definitive treatment for Restless Legs Syndrome, but there are treatments that can help manage it.

The treatment of RLS will help treat your symptoms. If your RLS is mild to moderate, a few changes in your daily life such as avoiding caffeine, alcohol and tobacco can help.

RLS is a chronic condition that can get worse with age. However, some people go into remission and have no symptoms for days or even years.


Speak to a Dorma specialist about your condition. If you begin to experience symptoms.

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