Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common yet under-diagnosed
movement disorder that is characterized by unpleasant limb
sensations occurring at rest and is associated with an irresistible
urge to move.
Periodic limb movements (PLM) may accompany these sensations
and often interfere with sleep onset or sleep quality. Discomfort,
sleep disturbances, and fatigue are direct results of RLS
and may have a negative impact on a person's quality of
Although RLS was first recognized several centuries ago,
it was not until recently that progress began in defining
the clinical features of RLS. Specifically, an International
RLS Study Group, (the IRLSSG), has organized and has started
to define the characteristic symptoms of RLS.
Criteria for the diagnosis of RLS, as described by the
IRLSSG, include four features:
- An urge to move the legs usually accompanied or caused
by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs.
(Sometimes the urge to move is present without the uncomfortable
sensations and sometimes the arms or other body parts
are involved in addition to the legs.)
- The urge to move or unpleasant sensations begin or worsen
during periods of rest or inactivity such as lying or
- The urge to move or unpleasant sensations are partially
or totally relieved by movements, such as walking or stretching,
at least as long as the activity continues.
- The urge to move or unpleasant sensations are worse
in the evening or night than during the day or only occur
in the evening or night. (When symptoms are very severe,
the worsening at night may not be noticeable but must
have been previously present.)
Epidemiologic studies have indicated that 5% to 15% of
the adult population may experience RLS symptoms.
RLS is easily diagnosed by Actigraphy and PSG studies.
No single therapy has been globally approved for the treatment
of RLS. Germany and Switzerland are the only countries with
an approved treatment available specifically for RLS. A
number of treatments have been used off label in the UK,
including levodopa, dopamine agonists, benzodiazepines,
opioids, and anticonvulsants.
RLS may also occur as part of another disease or illness
and may be the first sign of these. This type of RLS is
called secondary RLS and occurs in people with Diabetes,
Parkinson's disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Iron Deficiency
Anaemia, in Pregnancy, Neurological diseases and some drugs
may cause RLS.
The Edinburgh Sleep Centre is actively involved in Research
in RLS. Please contact
us for further information.