Restless Legs Syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition which causes uncomfortable feelings in the legs. In such cases, movement of the legs gives temporary relief. With mild symptoms, no treatment is required. However, if the condition worsens, medications are available which ease out the symptoms.

  • Unpleasant sensations in the legs
  • Affects 7% of the population

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Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is also referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED). It is a condition that is thought to affect the nervous system and results in an uncontrollable urge to move your legs and can cause a lot of pain. The leg pain experienced with RLS generally eases out when your legs are in motion. They are most significant during periods where your legs are still or at rest. The condition tends to play up the most during night-times, which is obvious considering those are the times in which a person lays completely motionless. Those affected can often be woken from their sleep due to the painful symptoms.

You can initially develop RLS at any age and it has the tendency to gradually worsen as a person ages. The sensation that is felt can be described as extremely unpleasant, felt in the legs or feet, often on both sides of the body at once.

Common symptoms which are associated with this condition can include:

  • Itchiness
  • Cramps and/or leg pain
  • Tingling sensation (mild to severe)
  • Burning and/or aching sensation

There are also certain characteristics which can be clearly linked to leg cramps such as the already mentioned worsening of the condition at night-time. Due to this, people can suffer from a lack of sleep and this could even lead to insomnia. A continuous lack of sleep over a period of time can cause people to be constantly aggressive, drowsy, and irritable throughout the day.


No discernible cause is identified in a lot of RLS cases. Researchers have previously considered a potential relationship between nervous system abnormalities and RLS, as well as dopamine deficiency or imbalance and this condition. However, none of these can yet be proved and the cause remains a mystery. RLS is known to be hereditary, especially so if the condition initially sprouts before the age of 50. There are several genes have been linked to an increased risk of this disease developing in later life.

Another cause can be pregnancy or any hormonal changes a person may be experiencing, as these can cause symptoms to worsen temporarily. In some cases, RLS can develop for the first time during pregnancy. Negative signs and symptoms should completely fade once the baby has been delivered. Lots more potential causes can be mentioned, but often, there are other underlying conditions which act as a trigger. If these conditions are treated first, then you may begin to notice improvements in the symptoms of RLS. Examples of such could be an iron deficiency, diabetes, nerve damage, kidney failure, and also certain medicines such as antidepressants and beta-blockers may potentially play a role.

Types Of Treatment

The typical route of treatment would be a general advice on how to induce a sound sleep and implement a regular sleep routine. In some cases, it may be hugely beneficial to correct an underlying condition as this could relieve symptoms brought on by RLS. For instance, if you were suffering from an iron deficiency you could take supplements to see if it has any positive effects on your restless legs. There are currently only two forms of medicine, of which both we stock, that currently exist with an approved indication towards treating RLS. These are:

Pramipexole: An oral medication which gets to work by helping restore the balance of the natural substance, dopamine, in the brain.

Ropinirole: An oral medication which also works in the same way; by restoring the balance of dopamine in the brain.

There several other forms of drugs that can be prescribed to treat this condition and will achieve their goal in a different fashion. All of them (including pramipexole and ropinirole) was originally created to treat other conditions but have been found as being effective in reducing the symptoms of RLS. Some of which include:

Calcium channel blockers: Medications such as gabapentin or pregabalin, can work for some people by inhibiting certain calcium channels.

Muscle relaxants/sleep medication: This generally includes all benzodiazepines. They can sedate you at night and help you get to sleep and remain asleep; they do not eradicate the problem nor do they have any positive effects on the condition. Frequently prescribed medicine for this includes clonazepam, temazepam, zolpidem, etc.

Opioids: Certain narcotic medications can prove very effective in masking symptoms, but carry the risk of addiction if used frequently and in high doses. Examples of such treatments include codeine, oxycodone, Percocet, etc.

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Questions & Answers

Is RLS a hereditary condition?

This condition has been found to be familiar in approximately half of all cases, which is consistent with it being genetic.

Will RLS ever fade on its own?

There have been documented cases of spontaneous remissions of RLS but these are very rare and should not be counted upon to happen. For the majority of people, this condition will get progressively worse over time.

Is there a connection between iron and RLS?

Yes. A lack of iron in a person’s diet is one of the most common causes of RLS and should be considered as a cause if you were to fall ill with this condition. Taking iron supplements could potentially clear this up.

At what point should I consult a doctor regarding RLS?

If you are suffering from RLS and it has started to affect your everyday life, you should consult a doctor. However, only you can be the judge of this and you must come to the decision off your own accord. Signs to look out for could be if you’re losing sleep often, having anxious or depressive feelings, having trouble with general concentration.

If you are looking for some expert help, book an ONLINE consultation with our GMC Registered Clinicians at

Patient discretion and confidentiality top the priority list at!

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