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Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurologic sensorimotor disorder that is characterized by an overwhelming urge to move the legs when they are at rest. The urge to move the legs is usually, but not always, accompanied by unpleasant sensations. It is less common but possible to have RLS symptoms in the arms, face, torso, and genital region. Symptoms of RLS are most severe in the evening and nighttime hours and can profoundly disrupt a patient's sleep and daily life.

RLS can run in families and may have a genetic component. In a recent study, the first RLS gene was discovered and was shown to account for approximately 50% of RLS cases. However, the researchers who identified the RLS gene cautioned that having it does not guarantee RLS. Rather, there are likely to be medical, environmental or other factors involved in translating RLS genetic susceptibility into RLS symptoms. Another recent RLS study also found that a genetic variant may account for about half of RLS cases and revealed an association between RLS and a gene for limb development, suggesting the possibility that RLS has components of a developmental disorder.

Symptoms

  • Urge to move the legs often associated with uncomfortable feeling in the legs (e.g. tingling, creepy, itching, pulling or aching) during periods of inactivity, including both sleep and wakefulness
  • Involuntary jerking of the limbs that intensifies in the evening or at night and is relieved by movement
  • People with RLS tend to have difficulty falling or staying asleep and suffer from chronic sleep loss, leaving them with the cognitive and tired feelings that occur with sleep loss