Restless legs syndrome (RLS) creates abnormal sensations—usually in the legs, but sometime in the arms, body, or head—which lead to a relentless urge to relieve the feeling (restlessness). Affecting approximately 10% of Americans by middle age, this neurological disorder manifests in vastly different ways ranging from mild tickling, itching, or crawling feelings to outright aching and pain. Patients are most likely to notice the sensations when their movement slows (eg, when relaxing, reading, concentrating, or trying to sleep). To interrupt the feeling, patients are compelled to move and find temporary relief. Most RLS sufferers also experience periodic limb movement disorders like jerking legs or arms during sleep. Over time, these patients accumulate a sleep deficit and RLS erodes the quality of their life.
RLS is most often a primary idiopathic disorder, but research has shown that it also occurs secondary to iron deficiency, end-stage renal disease, diabetes mellitus, and other diseases. Prescription drugs of choice for the bothersome cases include levodopa or the dopamine agonist pramipexole.
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