Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the nervous system which affects the legs. The condition causes victims to have uncomfortable sensations in the legs: itching, “pins and needles”, or “creepy crawly” feelings. The feelings cause an uncontrollable urge to move the legs in order to relieve the sensation.
RLS affects an estimated 10% of the U.S. population, and affects both men and women, although it’s more prevalent in women. It may begin at any age, including early childhood. Because it typically interferes with sleep, it’s considered a sleep condition as well as a nervous system condition.
The uncomfortable sensations caused by RLS are usually most severe when at rest, especially when sitting or lying down. Symptoms can come and go and vary in severity. Typically, symptoms are more severe in the evening or at night, and can range from mild to intolerable.
In most cases, doctors are unsure what causes RLS, although some believe it may be genetic. Other factors include chronic disease, medications, pregnancy, alcohol use, and sleep deprivation. Although RLS is often misdiagnosed, it can be successfully treated when diagnosed correctly. Some treatment options include lifestyle changes, adoption of regular exercise and sleep patterns, and reduction or elimination of alcohol, caffeine, or nicotine use.