Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder of the part of the nervous system that affects movements of the legs. Because it usually interferes with sleep, it also is considered a sleep disorder.
- People with RLS have strange sensations in their legs (and sometimes arm) and an irresistible urge to move their legs to relieve the sensations.
- The sensations are difficult to describe: they are not painful, but an uncomfortable, "itchy," "pins and needles," or "creepy crawly" feeling deep in the legs.
- The sensations are usually worse at rest, especially when lying in bed.
- The sensations lead to walking discomfort, sleep deprivation, and stress.
RLS affects about 8-10% of the US population. Men and women are affected equally. It may begin at any age, even in infants and young children. Most people who are affected severely are middle-aged or older.
The severity of RLS symptoms ranges from mild to intolerable. Symptoms get gradually worse over time in about two thirds of people with the condition and may be severe enough to be disabling. The symptoms are generally worse in the evening and night and less severe in the morning. While the symptoms are usually quite mild in young adults, by age 50 the symptoms cause severe nightly sleep disruption that leads to decreased alertness in the daytime.
RLS is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. In many people the condition is not diagnosed until 10-20 years after symptoms begin. Once correctly diagnosed, RLS can often be treated successfully.