Cancel
Nearby: Atlanta, GA 30308

Access Your Account

New to Healthgrades?

Join for free!

Or, sign in directly with Healthgrades:

Doctors and their Administrators:
Sign Up or Log In

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

By

Paige Greenfield

Was this helpful? (77)
This content is selected and managed by the Healthgrades editorial staff and is brought to you by an advertising sponsor.
x

This content is created or selected by the Healthgrades editorial team and is funded by an advertising sponsor. The content is subject to the Healthgrades medical review process for accuracy, balance and objectivity. The content is not edited or otherwise influenced by the advertisers appearing on this page except with the possible suggestion of the broad topic area. For more information, read the HealthGrades advertising policy.

ADVERTISEMENT
middle age woman smiling with mug

When you have restless legs syndrome (RLS), one of the questions at the front of your mind is likely: Why? Unfortunately, in most cases doctors don’t know what’s behind the disorder.

Here’s what they do know: In some people, RLS may be due to insufficient levels of iron in the brain or a problem with the brain’s ability to use iron. Normally, the brain uses iron to make the neurotransmitter dopamine. This chemical works in parts of your brain that control your body’s movements. Problems with dopamine can lead to involuntary movements such as those experienced by people with RLS.

Research has found several other factors that can lead to RLS. These include:

Genetics. Having family members with the disorder increases your risk for RLS.

Gender. Women are two times more likely to develop RLS than men. Pregnancy accounts for the difference. Population studies that exclude pregnant women, shows an men and women have an equal likelihood of developing RLS.

Age. While RLS can occur at any age—even children can have RLS—those with more severe cases tend to be middle-aged and older.

Chronic diseases. Certain health problems may affect the levels of iron in your brain or affect the part of the brain that controls body movements and cause RLS. Some examples are:

  • Parkinson’s disease

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Kidney failure

  • Diabetes

Pregnancy. Many women experience RLS symptoms during their final trimester. Fortunately, symptoms usually go away within four weeks of giving birth.

Medications. Certain medications used to treat other health issues may lead to RLS. Symptoms usually resolve once you stop taking the medicine. Common culprits include:

  • Antinausea medicines

  • Antidepressants

  • Antipsychotics

  • Cold and allergy medicines with antihistamines

Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco. Symptoms may improve if you reduce or stop using these substances.


Was this helpful? (77)
Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jun 23, 2015

© 2016 Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Healthgrades Operating Company, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement.

View Sources

Medical References

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/rls/rls_Causes.html
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/restless_legs/detail_restless_legs.htm
  3. Pantaleo NP, Hening WA, Allen RP, Earley CJ. Pregnancy accounts for most of the gender difference in prevalence of familial RLS. Sleep Med 2010; 11:310


You Might Also Like

Is RLS a Real Illness?

Some people think that restless legs syndrome is imaginary, but it's a very real and uncomfortable condition.

9 Ways to Get a Good Night's Sleep with RLS

There isn't a cure for RLS. But there are many steps you can take to minimize any discomfort.

Share via Email

PREVIOUS ARTICLE:

Medications Used to Treat Restless Legs Syndrome

NEXT ARTICLE:

What Are the Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?

Up Next

What Are the Symptoms of Restless Legs Syndrome?