What Is Restless Legs Syndrome?

A woman's legs on her bedRestless legs syndrome (RLS) is a disorder related to sensation and movement. People with restless legs syndrome have an unpleasant feeling or sensation in parts of their bodies when they lie down to sleep.

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Most people also have a very strong urge to move, and moving sometimes makes them feel better. But all this movement makes it hard or impossible to get enough sleep.

Restless legs syndrome usually affects the legs, but it can cause unpleasant feelings in the arms, torso, or even a phantom limb (the part of a limb that has been amputated).

When you don’t get enough sleep, you may start to have problems getting things done during the day because you’re so tired. You may also be sleepy or have trouble concentrating. So it’s important to see your doctor and get help to manage your symptoms.

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RLS: Why Is Misdiagnosis Is So Common?

A smiling doctor writing notes in a chartSometimes it’s difficult for doctors to diagnose restless leg syndrome.

Why?

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Many cases of restless leg syndrome go undiagnosed because:

  • Many people do not seek a doctor’s help when they have symptoms.
  • Most people visit a doctor during the day, when symptoms are not present or are only mild.
  • Some doctors do not recognize the condition and may believe that the symptoms are caused by other conditions, such as insomnia, stress, muscle cramps, or arthritis.
  • Restless legs syndrome does occur in children but it is hard to diagnose for the same reasons.

The Special Problem With Children & RLS

Children often are not able to describe their symptoms. A parent’s observations of the child’s behavior and sleep may be helpful. Knowing that a parent or other close relative has restless legs syndrome can also help the doctor make a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome in the child.