If you ever have an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, especially during the evening or nighttime, you may be suffering from restless legs syndrome. Find relief and a positive way to move forward by identifying if this is the condition you may be suffering from. UAB Medical West knows how important it is to stay on top of your health, so we compiled all the information you need about restless legs syndrome, its diagnosis, and treatment. 


What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a nervous system disorder that causes an uncontrollable urge to move your legs. RLS usually occurs when you lie down in the evening and at night. Most people with RLS move their legs because it seems to temporarily ease the feeling of discomfort they experience. 


Restless legs syndrome can begin at any age and usually worsens over time. RLS is often categorized as a sleeping disorder because it can cause difficulties sleeping and sitting down for prolonged periods of time. 


Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome include:


  • Overwhelming urge to move legs
  • Tingling, crawling, or pulling sensations in the legs
  • Difficulties falling or staying asleep
  • Daytime sleepiness, fatigue
  • Nighttime leg twitching
  • Worsening of symptoms over time
  • Relief of discomfort with movement 

RLS sensations usually occur in both legs and rarely spread to the arms.

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

Doctors cannot always pinpoint the cause of restless legs syndrome. However, research suggests that the condition may be caused by an imbalance of a brain chemical called dopamine, which is partially responsible for muscle movement. In addition, the following conditions can increase the risk of developing RLS:


RLS could run in families, especially if the onset of symptoms happens before 40. 

Chronic Diseases

Some chronic diseases like diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, iron deficiency, peripheral neuropathy, renal disease can all include RLS


Medications that include antinausea medications, antipsychotics, some antidepressants, and antihistamines can worsen symptoms of RLS


Some women develop RLS during pregnancy. Symptoms usually go away after the pregnancy. 


Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosis

Although there is no medical test for diagnosing RLS, your doctor will take your medical history and base your diagnosis on the following criteria:


  • You have a strong and uncontrollable urge to move your legs. 
  • Your symptoms start or get worse when you are sitting or lying down. 
  • Your symptoms are temporarily improved by moving your legs, walking, or stretching. 
  • Your symptoms worsen overnight. 
  • Your symptoms are not caused by another disease or condition. 

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome

If the underlying cause of your RLS is another condition like iron deficiency or diabetes, your doctor may recommend addressing those diseases first. If your RLS is not associated with an underlying condition, your doctor may prescribe one of the following treatments:



Prescription medications that increase dopamine production in the brain can be used to treat RLS. Additionally, muscle relaxants and drugs that affect calcium channels can also be helpful for RLS.


Lifestyle Changes

Making the following lifestyle changes can help reduce symptoms of RLS:


  • Avoid caffeine
  • Try baths and massages
  • Exercise
  • Use a foot wrap of a vibrating pad
  • Apply warm/cool packs

When to See a Doctor 

If you think you are experiencing symptoms of restless legs syndrome, it’s important to see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. UAB Medical West’s clinical staff will rule out other diseases that could be causing your symptoms and recommend proper treatment. 


UAB Medical West in Birmingham, Alabama Wants You to Rest Easy

Having your sleep interrupted by restless legs syndrome is unpleasant to say the least. It is essential to see a medical professional to give you a proper diagnosis and advise you on proper treatment options. If you are experiencing symptoms of restless legs syndrome, don’t wait – contact UAB Medical West - serving Hueytown, Hoover, Bessemer, McCalla, and Vance!