What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
Restless legs syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and is characterised by an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs.
What causes RLS?
Restless legs syndrome can be caused by reduced levels of dopamine, which is a chemical that is involved in controlling muscle movement.
It can also be caused by underlying health conditions such as iron deficiency anaemia, which is known as secondary restless legs syndrome.
In these cases it can be treated by regulating the dopamine and iron in the body.
However, for the majority of cases of restless legs syndrome there is no obvious cause, and this is known as primary restless legs syndrome.
If the symptoms are not severe it can usually be treated by making lifestyle changes such as incorporating good sleeping habits into a person’s routine, quitting smoking and regular exercise.
What are the symptoms of restless legs syndrome?
The main symptom of restless legs syndrome is an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs which gets worse when a person is inactive and in the evening/night, and gets better when a person is active.
Other symptoms can include:
- An uncomfortable sensation in the feet, calves and thighs
- Involuntary jerking of the legs and arms during sleep which are known as periodic limb movements (PLMs).