Welcome to the Patient Education Library of Texas Medical Institute
Restless Legs Syndrome
In a way, your body goes on “auto-pilot” while you sleep. Your brain regulates automatic functions for you, such as breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure. Although sleep is a complex process that is not fully understood, it is known that a good night’s sleep is important for optimal health and functioning. Restless legs syndrome is concerning because it interrupts or prevents the natural sleep cycle.
RLS symptoms tend to become worse in the evening or when you are lying down, especially when you are trying to fall asleep. They may also occur during the day when you are sitting or resting. Your symptoms may get worse when you feel emotionally upset or stressed. RLS can contribute to insomnia, the inability to sleep. RLS may also cause daytime drowsiness, anxiety, depression, confusion, or problems with thinking and remembering.
In addition to medication, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes. It can be helpful to avoid medications that may make RLS worse, such as some antihistamines. It can be beneficial to not consume alcohol or caffeine products. Relaxation and stretching exercises may be helpful to reduce stress. Your doctor will let you know if vitamin supplements are appropriate for you. Some people are able to reduce their need for medication after making lifestyle changes.
Am I at Risk
RLS appears to be more common in middle-aged and older adults, but people of all ages may develop it, including children.
Risk factors for RLS:
_____ Researchers have identified some of the genes that contribute to RLS in some people. If your family members have RLS, your risk is increased.
_____ People with anemia or low iron levels in their blood may have an increased risk for RLS.
_____ Neuropathy, nerve damage associated with diabetes or peripheral neuropathy, appears to be associated with an increased risk for developing RLS.
_____ People receiving dialysis for end-stage kidney disease have an increased risk of RLS.
_____ It appears that some women develop RLS during pregnancy, but the condition often resolves after childbirth.
ComplicationsRLS is an uncomfortable condition, but it is not life-threatening. Some people with RLS develop periodic limb movements in sleep, a condition that causes leg jerking during sleep.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on April 13th, 2016. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.