Restless Leg Syndrome Symptoms

What Are the Symptoms of
Restless Leg Syndrome?

Some common restless leg syndrome symptoms include:

  • Unpleasant creeping, crawling, tingling, pulling, or painful sensations in the legs and sometimes in the arms.

  • Relief of leg sensations occurs with walking stretching, knee bends, massage, or hot or cold baths.

  • Leg discomfort occurs when lying down or sitting for long periods of time.

  • Symptoms worsen in the evening and during the night.

  • Involuntary leg (and occasionally arm) movements occur during sleep (PLMD).

  • Falling asleep or staying asleep is difficult.

  • Sleepiness or fatigue is experienced during the day.

  • Family members have similar symptoms.

The most common symptom of Restless Leg Syndrome is strong sensations that are felt deep within the thigh, leg muscles, knees, or even ankles that cause a powerful urge to move the leg (one or both legs may be affected). Some individuals also feel these sensations in their arms.

Restless Legs Syndrome seems to occur in both women and men. Symptoms may start at any time but tend to be more common and more severe with age, often during the third decade in life.

Young children who experience symptoms of RLS are sometimes misdiagnosed with "growing pains" or considered hyperactive because they cannot sit still in school.

RLS symptoms tend to follow a daily cycle, with the evening and night hours being more troublesome.

People with RLS may find it difficult to relax and fall asleep because of their strong urge to walk or do other activities to relieve the sensations in their legs. Persons with RLS often sleep best toward the end of the night or during the morning hours. The lack of sleep causes RLS sufferers to feel sleepy during the day on an occasional or regular basis.

The severity of symptoms varies from night to night and over the years as well. For some individuals, there may be periods of time when RLS doesn't cause a problem, but the symptoms usually return. Other people may experience severe symptoms daily.

Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep (PLMS)

Many people with RLS also have a related sleep disorder called periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS). PLMS is characterized by involuntary jerking or bending leg movements during sleep that typically occur every 10 to 60 seconds. Some people may experience hundreds of such movements per night, which can wake them, disturb their sleep, and awaken bed partners.

People who have RLS and PLMS have trouble both falling asleep and staying asleep and may experience sleepiness during the day. As a result of problems both in sleeping and while awake, people with RLS may have difficulties with their job, social life, and recreational activities.

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Sources: Swanson; Wolfson