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Restless legs syndrome causes you to have an urge to move your legs

Restless legs syndrome causes you to have an urge to move your legs
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Restless legs syndrome

2-minute read

Restless legs syndrome is a common condition that can make it hard for you to sleep. It is a condition of the nervous system where you have an urge to move your legs to relieve unpleasant sensations. There is plenty you can do that may help.

What causes restless legs syndrome?

The cause is not well understood, but health problems can lead to restless legs syndrome, including chronic kidney disease, iron deficiency anaemia, diabetes, arthritis and Parkinson’s disease.

It can be a side effect of some drugs, such as antipsychotics and antidepressants. Also, diet can cause restless legs syndrome, with lack of iron associated with the condition.

About half of people who have restless legs syndrome have a family history of the condition.

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.

If your symptoms are caused by an underlying condition, such as diabetes or anaemia, the first step is to treat that condition.

If there is no apparent medical condition, 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:

Your doctor may refer you to a specialist neurologist to further explore the cause and treatment of restless legs syndrome.

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Last reviewed: January 2020

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