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Restless leg syndrome
Alternative namesNocturnal myoclonus; RLS
DefinitionRestless leg syndrome is a sleep disorder characterized by leg discomfort during sleep, which is only relieved by frequent movements of the legs.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) occurs most often in middle-aged and older adults. It is worsened by stress . The cause is not known.
The disorder consists of sensations in the lower legs that make the person uncomfortable unless the legs are moved. The sensations usually occur shortly after going to bed but may also occur during the daytime.
The abnormal sensations occasionally occur in the upper leg, the feet or the arms in addition to the lower leg. There are often no obvious vascular or neurologic abnormalities associated with the disorder. Sometimes restless leg syndrome can be associated with peripheral nerve diseases, however.
Restless leg syndrome can result in a decreased quality of sleep ( insomnia ) with subsequent daytime sleepiness , anxiety or depression , and confusion or slowed thought processes from lack of sleep.
Signs and tests
There is no specific examination for restless leg syndrome. No structural or other abnormalities are usually discovered unless peripheral nerve disease is also present. A blood test may be done to rule out anemia, which rarely has been associated with restless leg syndrome.
Examination and testing may be used to rule out other disorders that may cause similar symptoms, especially disorders associated with claudication of the legs.
There is no known cure for restless leg syndrome.
If sleep is severely disrupted, medications such as Sinemet (an anti-Parkinson's medication) or tranquilizers such as clonazepam may be helpful to some people, but they may worsen daytime sleepiness in others. Low doses of Pramipexole, a dopamine agonist, has been found to be very effective in controlling symptoms in some people.
Sometimes low doses of narcotics will relieve symptoms of restless leg syndrome as well.
Expectations (prognosis)Restless leg syndrome is not dangerous or life-threatening and does not indicate a serious disorder. It can be uncomfortable and can disrupt sleep.
ComplicationsInsomnia can occur.
Calling your health care providerCall for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms of restless leg syndrome are present and sleep is disrupted.
PreventionTechniques to promote muscle relaxation and stress reduction may reduce the incidence of restless leg syndrome in people prone to the condition.
Update Date: 7/28/2002Elaine T. Kiriakopoulos, M.D., MSc, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard University, Boston, MA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT