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Restless Legs Syndrome : Symptoms, Cause and Treatment

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), often referred to as Willis-Ekbom, is a neurological condition that causes people to have an uncontrolled desire to move their legs, usually because of discomfort in the legs. Moving your legs will temporarily reduce feelings of discomfort. This discomfort can also occur in the arm.

RLS generally occurs at night at bedtime or when someone tries to relax. This can interfere with sleep — which causes daytime sleepiness — and is difficult when traveling.

How common are restless legs syndrome?

This general condition affects 10% of the population at a time in their lives. It can occur in any gender, but usually occurs in women and often occurs in middle-aged or older people.

Signs and symptoms of restless legs syndrome

Itching, feeling of burning, or feeling of crawling (tingling) in the legs which makes it difficult to sleep. Moving your legs will temporarily eliminate these symptoms. Usually, these symptoms affect both sides of the body. Because these symptoms can interfere with sleep, we usually feel tired during the day. Some people also experience anxiety in all parts of their feet as they sit.

There may be some signs or symptoms not mentioned above. If you have concerns about a symptom, consult your doctor.

When should I see a doctor?

You must contact your doctor if:

  • You feel you have RLS / WED
  • Symptoms continue despite treatment
  • If you have concerns about a symptom, consult your doctor. Each body works differently. It's good to discuss the best solution for your situation with your doctor.

Cause of restless legs syndrome

The researchers suspect that this condition is likely a result of an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, namely dopamine, which functions to control muscle movement.




Heredity: sometimes RLS / WED occurs in the family, especially if the condition starts before age 50. Researchers have identified areas on chromosomes where there is a possibility of an RLS / WED gene.

Middle-aged people and pregnant women have a higher risk of getting this condition. Pregnancy or hormonal changes can temporarily worsen the signs and symptoms of RLS / WED. Some women experience RLS / WED for the first time during pregnancy, especially in the last trimester. However, signs and symptoms usually disappear after giving birth. Certain medications such as antidepressants can also cause RLS.

Risk factors for restless legs syndrome

There are certain factors that can increase the risk factor for the appearance of restless legs syndrome:

  • Derivatives: Your risk of developing RLS may be higher if it has happened to your family members
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women have a higher risk of developing this condition
  • Peripheral neuropathy: damage to the nerves in the hands and feet, generally due to chronic diseases or alcoholism
  • Iron deficiency: although without anemia, iron deficiency can cause or worsen RLS / WED. If you have a history of bleeding in the stomach or digestive tract, have bleeding that is heavy during menstruation, or often donate blood, you may be deficient in iron
  • Kidney failure: if you have kidney failure, you may also have iron deficiency and have anemia. When the kidneys do not function normally, storing iron in the blood can be reduced. This condition and chemical changes in the body can cause or worsen RLS / WED
  • The absence of risk factors does not mean you cannot get restless legs syndrome. These factors are only references, consult your doctor for more information.

What are my treatment options for restless legs syndrome?

Treatment is intended to reduce symptoms and help sleep soundly. Your doctor may suggest self-help methods or use of drugs, or a combination of both. Some medicines work better than other drugs, so maybe you need to try other drugs to find out which one is best for you. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, and alcohol.

If symptoms are severe and treatment is not successful, a visit to sleep or neurological disorder specialist may be needed. Neurologists are doctors who specialize in treating nervous system disorders.

What are the usual tests for restless legs syndrome?

Generally, the doctor will make a diagnosis of the description of the symptoms. Your doctor may ask for a blood test to ensure that the patient's condition is not a symptom of another similar condition, such as iron deficiency. If the condition is severe, the doctor may recommend staying in a sleep laboratory where you will be watched while sleeping while studying the symptoms.

Treatment at home

The following lifestyle and home remedies can help you overcome restless legs syndrome:

  • Train good sleep habits. Sleep around the same time every night
  • Regular exercise
  • Learn relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, and biofeedback. Biofeedback is a method that trains you to control your subconscious response
  • Try these methods to temporarily relieve feelings of discomfort in your feet; walking or stretching, massage your feet, or use cold or hot packs.
  • If there are questions, consult your doctor for the best solution to your problem.



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