Restless Leg Syndrome: What Causes It?

Mental Health & Sleep Center, Restless Leg Syndrome
on October 22, 2013
restless legs

Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), also known as Restless legs syndrome (RLS), is a disruptive neurologic disorder that seriously affects 2 to 3 percent of the adult population. WED/RLS results in an irresistible urge to move the legs which is often accompanied by unusual or unpleasant sensations in the legs that may be described as creeping, tugging, or pulling. Because WED/RLS most often occurs in the evening, it can severely disrupt sleep and reduce quality of life.

RELATED: New Dangers of Restless Leg Syndrome

What causes WED/RLS?

Research into the cause of WED/RLS is ongoing. Researchers have discovered gene variants that contribute to the risk for WED/RLS. We do know that while WED/RLS often runs in families, it also sometimes appears as the result of another condition. A substantial number of women develop WED/RLS during pregnancy. In addition, anemia, low iron levels, endstage renal disease with dialysis and peripheral neuropathy are all associated with WED/RLS.

What if I think I have WED/RLS?

If you think you have WED/RLS, it is important that you schedule an appointment with your physician. Your doctor will review your medical history, complete a physical exam, listen to a description of your symptoms, complete a diagnostic interview, and rule out conditions that may be confused with WED/RLS. In addition, your doctor may check your iron levels. If another sleep disorder is suspected, you may be asked to stay overnight in a sleep lab. There are no available lab tests that will confirm that you have WED/RLS.

This information was provided by the Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation. Visit their website for additional WED/RLS help and resources.