Restless legs syndrome

Synonyms: RLS

Medical Specialties: Endocrinology, Internal medicine, Neurology

Clinical Definition

Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by intense urges to move the legs, typically in supine positions and accompanied by uncomfortable periodic prickling sensations. Exact cause is unknown, but several underlying conditions are thought to be associated with restless leg syndrome, including iron deficiency, kidney failure and peripheral nerve disease.

In Our Own Words

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder marked by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move the legs, usually while resting or when going to sleep. The discomfort is sometimes described as pain, tingling or crawling, and patients seek relief by moving the legs.


Severity of each symptom varies, but RLS can greatly impact sleep quality, resulting in exhaustion, daytime fatigue, poor concentration and depressive symptoms.


The exact cause of RLS is not known, but pathways in the brain affected by Parkinson’s disease are thought to be relevant. Patients with Parkinson’s disease often have RLS, too.

Relevant Conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney failure
  • Ordinary leg cramps
  • Peripheral nerve disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
Side Effects
  • Unpleasant leg pain/sensations
  • Urge to move legs during rest
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Irritability
  • Numbness and tingling
Share this article
  • Cleveland Clinic. “Restless Legs Syndrome.” Accessed July 2013.
  • National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. “Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet.” Accessed January 2014.
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