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NINDS Restless Legs Syndrome Information Page

Condensed from Restless Legs Syndrome Fact Sheet

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What is Restless Legs Syndrome?

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them for relief. Individuals affected with the disorder often describe the sensations as throbbing, polling, or creeping. The sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.

Is there any treatment?

For those with mild to moderate symptoms, many physicians suggest certain lifestyle changes and activities to reduce or eliminate symptoms. Decreased use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may provide some relief. Physicians may suggest that certain individuals take supplements to correct deficiencies in iron, folate, and magnesium. Taking a hot bath, massaging the legs, or using a heating pad or ice pack can help relieve symptoms in some patients.

Physicians also may suggest a variety of medications to treat RLS, including dopaminergics, benzodiazepines (central nervous system depressants), opioids, and anticonvulsants. The drugs ropinirole, pramipexole, gabapentin enacarbil, and rotigotine have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating  moderate to severe RLS. The Relaxis pad, which the person can place at the site of discomfort when in bed and provides 30 minutes of vibrations (counterstimulation) that ramp off after 30 minutes, also has been approved by the FDA.

What is the prognosis?

RLS is generally a life-long condition for which there is no cure. Symptoms may gradually worsen with age. Nevertheless, current therapies can control the disorder, minimizing symptoms and increasing periods of restful sleep. In addition, some individuals have remissions, periods in which symptoms decrease or disappear for days, weeks, or months, although symptoms usually eventually reappear.

What research is being done?

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) conduct and support RLS research in laboratories at the NIH and at major medical institutions across the country. The goal of this research is to increase scientific understanding of RLS, find improved methods of diagnosing and treating the syndrome, and discover ways to prevent it.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Restless Legs Syndrome Clinical Trials


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Restless Legs Syndrome Foundation
3006 Bee Caves Road
Suite D206
Austin, TX 78746
Tel: 512-366-9109

National Sleep Foundation
1010 N. Glebe Road
Suite 310
Arlington, VA 22201
Tel: 703-243-1697
Fax: 202-347-3472

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
National Institutes of Health, DHHS
31 Center Drive, Rm. 4A21 MSC 2480
Bethesda, MD 20892-2480
Tel: 301-592-8573/240-629-3255 (TTY) Recorded Info: 800-575-WELL (-9355)

Related NINDS Publications and Information
Publicaciones en Español

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified July 27, 2015