What is the Diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome?

By  , Expert Content
Aug 09, 2011

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Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a condition which causes distressing feelings in the legs while you sit, lie down or try to sleep at night. A person with RLS may feel urge to get up and move around because of the burning, “creepy crawly” feelings, or pulling, and itching. But there are no tests to diagnose RLS. Your doctor will diagnose restless legs syndrome based on your history and symptoms. Hence, note down your entire symptoms such as, what do you feel like, when do the symptoms start and what makes them better or worse?

To diagnose RLS, your doctor will note the symptoms and see if they meet the four criteria given by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. The four criteria to diagnose restless legs syndrome are:

  • There is a strong, often irresistible compulsion to move your legs, which is often associated with uncomfortable sensations (such as crawling, creeping, cramping, tingling, pulling, tugging or itching).
  • The symptoms begin or worsen when you are resting, such as sitting, lying down or trying to sleep.
  • The symptoms subside partially or temporarily with activity, such as walking or stretching, (for the time you keep moving).
  • The symptoms worsen at night.

Your doctor may recommend blood tests or muscle or nerve studies to rule out other possible causes for your symptoms.

You may be advised to consult a sleep specialist for additional evaluation. This test may require that you stay overnight at a sleep clinic so that the doctor can observe you while sleeping (such as check for leg twitching or periodic limb movements while sleeping— a sign that suggests RLS). However, all people with RLS do not need a sleep study for diagnosis.


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