Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move one's body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations. It most commonly affects the legs, but can affect the arms, torso, head, and even phantom limbs. Moving the affected body part modulates the sensations, providing temporary relief.
RLS sensations range from pain or an aching in the muscles, to "an itch you can't scratch", a "buzzing sensation", an unpleasant "tickle that won't stop", a "crawling" feeling, or limbs jerking while awake. The sensations typically begin or intensify during quiet wakefulness, such as when relaxing, reading, studying, or trying to sleep. Additionally, most individuals with RLS have periodic limb movement disorder (limbs jerking during sleep), which is an objective physiologic marker of the disorder and is associated with sleep disruption. It can be caused by low iron levels.
Treatment is often with levodopa or a dopamine agonist such as pramipexole. Some controversy surrounds the marketing of drug treatments for RLS. It is a "spectrum" disease with some people experiencing only a minor annoyance and others having major disruption of sleep and impairments in quality of life. It is believed that as many as 12 million individuals in the United States have RLS, and many more are undiagnosed.
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