Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that causes an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually because of an uncomfortable sensation. It typically happens in the evening or nighttime hours when you're sitting or lying down. Moving eases the unpleasant feeling temporarily.
Restless legs syndrome, also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, can begin at any age and generally worsens as you age. It can disrupt sleep, which interferes with daily activities.
The chief symptom is an urge to move the legs, usually on both sides of the body. Less commonly, the sensations affect the arms. People typically describe RLS symptoms as compelling, unpleasant sensations in the legs or feet but sometimes the sensations are difficult to explain. People with RLS usually don't describe the condition as a muscle cramp or numbness. They do, however, consistently describe the desire to move the legs. It's common for symptoms to fluctuate in severity. Sometimes, symptoms disappear for periods of time, then come back.
Some common descriptions associated with RLS, which generally occur within the limb rather than on the skin, are:
Accompanying characteristics of RLS include:
A diagnosis of RLS is based on the following criteria, established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:
Along with evaluating your descriptions and medical history, your provider may conduct a physical and a neurological exam and possibly order several tests to rule out other medical or behavioral conditions, e.g., iron deficiency, sleep disorders, arthritis, etc.