How Is Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosed?

By

Paige Greenfield

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Doctor talking to patient

When you experience uncomfortable feelings in your legs—a strong urge to move them, throbbing or pulling sensations, or even pain—you want answers ASAP. The sooner you can find out what’s wrong, the sooner you can get help.

Unfortunately, diagnosing restless legs syndrome (RLS) isn’t so easy. There is no single blood test or exam that can determine if you have it. Instead, your doctor will rely largely on the signs and symptoms you report. To make a diagnosis, your doctor will ask for these key pieces of information:

What are your symptoms? Your doctor will determine whether your symptoms are the same as those associated with RLS.

Do your symptoms affect your sleep? Most people with RLS experience symptoms when they lie down or relax, which keeps them awake at night.

What’s your medical history? RLS may be associated with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease.

What’s your family history? RLS tends to run in families.

What medications are you taking? Certain medications can cause or worsen RLS. Stopping or changing your medications may help, but don’t do so unless your doctor advises it.

Your doctor will combine this information with a physical exam and test results, such as a blood test to measure your iron levels, to find out whether RLS is to blame.

Consider bringing to your appointment a list of your symptoms and medications, as well as a sleep diary in which you record how much daily sleep you get. Having this information can make it easier for your doctor to arrive at a diagnosis.

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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Jul 5, 2017

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Medical References

  1. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/rls/rls_Causes.html);
  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/rls/rls_Diagnosis.html);
  3. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/restless_legs/detail_restless_legs.htm);

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