Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is an uncomfortable or unpleasant tickling or twitching in the legs. Symptoms also occasionally occur in the arms or other parts of the body. To be classified as restless leg syndrome, symptoms must worsen when you're inactive or when you rest, worsen in the evening or nighttime, and improve when you walk or move.

Approximately 10% of people in the United States have RLS, and the condition is more common in women. Most people with the disease are middle-aged or older, but children also have the condition. The disorder often goes unrecognized or misdiagnosed for years.

There is no cure for restless leg syndrome, but we can reduce your discomfort and sleep disturbances--and greatly improve your quality of life. Our goal is to reduce your symptoms.


Symptoms can be intermittent or chronic (long-lasting). They can range from mild to incapacitating. Some patients experience significant restlessness and difficulty falling asleep (insomnia), causing sleep deprivation.


The cause is unknown, but there is probably a genetic component because about half of people with RLS also have a close relative with the condition.

Certain diseases and medical conditions such as the following may be a cause:

  • Iron deficiency (anemia)
  • Kidney failure
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Pregnancy

The following may make the symptoms worse:

  • Medications used to treat nausea
  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Some types of antihistamines, antipsychotics and anti-depressants


There is no medical test to diagnose restless leg syndrome. We make the diagnosis based on your medical history. Sometimes we use blood work or other testing to rule out other medical conditions, low levels of red blood cells or ferritin (a protein that stores iron in the tissues).


Mild RLS If you have mild or intermittent RLS, you may not need treatment. Or conservative therapy may be sufficient, such as:

  • Using leg massages, taking hot baths or applying heating pads
  • Exercising early in the day
  • Adopting a regular sleep schedule
  • Getting more sleep
  • Eliminating caffeine, alcohol and tobacco
  • Taking over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)

Chronic or Severe RLS

In patients with more chronic or severe symptoms, prescription medications may be required. The same drug may not be helpful for all patients, and a particular medication may initially be helpful but become less effective over time.

All medications have potential side effects and should be used only under the supervision of a physician trained in the treatment of this disorder. Some medications used to treat restless leg syndrome act on a neurotransmitter in the brain called dopamine. These drugs include levodopa, pramipexole and ropinirole.

In other cases, we may prescribe anti-convulsant or anti-seizure medications such as carbamazepine or gabapentinare. We occasionally use sedative medications or narcotic pain medications to help with sleep or to control pain.

Next Steps

Please call 734-936-9068 to schedule a clinic visit.

We will need a referral from your physician before your appointment. We look forward to helping you resolve your sleep issues.