What causes restless legs syndrome?
The cause is not well understood, but restless legs syndrome:
- may have something to do with chronic kidney disease
- may have something to do with iron deficiency anaemia
- can be a side effect of some drugs, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants.
Signs and symptoms of restless legs syndrome
If you have restless legs syndrome, you might have:
- an urge to move your legs because of unpleasant sensations like burning, tingling, aching, itching or a feeling of insects crawling under your skin
- uncontrolled jerking movements of the legs at night
- similar sensations in the arms or elsewhere.
The symptoms are worse when you are resting or trying to sleep and can keep you awake. Moving your legs (or arms) relieves the symptoms.
Restless legs syndrome treatment
If you experience these symptoms, see your doctor to confirm a diagnosis. You may need a blood test for iron and kidney function.
Medication can be prescribed if the symptoms severely affect your sleep or quality of life.
You may be able to ease the symptoms, and improve your sleep, by:
- having hot baths, heat pads, ice packs and leg massages
- reducing caffeine and alcohol intake
- if you smoke, cutting back or quitting
- Having healthy sleep habits
- managing stress.
Your doctor may refer you to a specialist neurologist to further explore the cause and treatment of restless legs syndrome.
Last reviewed: September 2015