Restless legs syndrome: What causes RLS?


Restless legs syndrome, which you might have heard referred to as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition of the nervous system. RLS causes an overwhelming irresistible urge to move the legs. Express.co.uk reveals what causes the condition.

Restless legs syndrome

Restless legs syndrome is a condition that can start at any age and causes troubling symptoms.

The symptoms are mainly to do with your legs, but they can also affect your arms, chest and face.

While the condition is known for causing an urge to move your legs and an uncomfortable sensation, there are a number of other symptoms.

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What causes RLS?

Unfortunately, the exact cause of restless legs syndrome is unknown.

However, some research has identified specific genes related to RLS and it can run in families.

Where it is genetic, symptoms normally occur before the age of 40.

Other evidence suggests that RLS is related to a problem with the basal ganglia – the part of the brain that uses dopamine to control muscle activity and movement.

Sometimes RLS occurs as a complication of another health condition and this is called secondary restless legs syndrome.

Typically this occurs if you have iron-deficiency anaemia, a long-term health condition like diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, or are pregnant.

Restless legs syndrome can be made worse by a number of triggers, including the following medications:

  • some antidepressants
  • antipsychotics
  • lithium (used in the treatment of bipolar disorder)
  • calcium channel blockers (used in the treatment of high blood pressure)
  • some antihistamines
  • metoclopramide (used to relieve nausea)

Other possible triggers are excessive smoking, caffeine or alcohol, being overweight or obese, stress and lack of exercise.



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