Restless legs syndrome (RLS) affects many people and is characterised by unpleasant sensations such as tingling, pulling or tension in the legs. The symptoms occur mainly in the evening and at night, and can have a significant impact on sleep. Those affected feel an irresistible urge to move their legs and feet, as movement provides relief.


Overview of RLS

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a widespread disorder that is estimated to affect up to 10% of the population, with around twice as many women as men experiencing RLS. Typical symptoms are sensations of tingling, pulling or tension in the legs, which occur mainly at rest and can be alleviated by moving.

Causes and risk factors

The exact cause of restless legs syndrome is not fully understood. Research suggests that an imbalance of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which also plays a central role in Parkinson’s disease, is a major contributing factor to RLS. Genetic factors also play a role, as restless legs syndrome occurs more frequently in some families.

Other risk factors are pregnancy, iron deficiency, renal failure and old age. In addition, certain medications and chronic diseases such as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to the development of RLS.

Restless Legs Syndrome


The main symptom of restless legs syndrome is unpleasant sensations in the legs that trigger an irresistible urge to move them. The sensations range from tingling and pulling to pain and tension; they occur when the affected person is at rest and improve with movement.

The symptoms are typically most noticeable in the evening and at night. This can cause severe sleep disturbances which, in turn, severely impairs the quality of life of those living with the disorder. In some cases, the arms can also be affected.


The diagnosis of restless legs syndrome is mainly based on the characteristic symptoms experienced by the patient. A thorough neurological examination by a neurology specialist is necessary to rule out other possible causes. Other diagnostic procedures may include blood tests to rule out iron deficiency, for example, and sleep studies to assess the effects of the disorder on sleep.


The treatment of RLS depends on the severity of the symptoms and the individual circumstances of each patient. Any underlying factors, such as iron deficiency, that are identified should be treated as a matter of priority. Various medications can be used if symptoms persist. Some patients also find relief through non-medicinal measures such as regular exercise, massages, warm baths, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol. The syndrome can be reduced or even eliminated entirely as a result of these treatments.


Preventive measures to alleviate the symptoms of restless legs syndrome include a balanced diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies, regular physical activity and avoiding substances that can exacerbate symptoms. Relaxation exercises and good sleep hygiene can also help to ease night-time symptoms.

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