Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

The causes of restless legs syndrome are still not fully known.

Research into the causes of restless leg syndrome is ongoing but so far has not pin-pointed the mechanism underlying the disease. In other words, RLS has no identifiable origin, as, for example, influeza does. It may be that RLS is a final common pathway for multiple causes and mechanisms. Or it may be that victims have an underlying vulnerability that develops in the presence of one or more of the precipitating factors.

In nearly half of all cases, the cause of restless leg syndrome is familial, but it may be idiopathic (cause unknown) or related to another condition.

Some common factors that researchers have noticed about restless leg syndrome causes are:

  • It seems to be of higher frequency among the elderly.
  • Excessive use of caffeine-containing beverages is thought to cause RLS
  • Alcohol intake is thought to aggravate the two periodic leg movement syndromes
  • RLS may be an early manifestation of iron deficiency anemia or magnesium deficiency.
  • It often occurs during pregnancy
  • Chronic diseases. Kidney failure often leads to RLS. Other chronic diseases such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia may also be associated with RLS.

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Sources: Swanson; Wolfson; Yoakum