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Restless legs syndrome
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Restless legs syndrome

Contributors: Jamie Adams MD, Richard L. Barbano MD, PhD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a movement disorder characterized by an uncomfortable or distressing urge to move the legs. The sensation occurs during periods of inactivity and is more common at night, although the syndrome can progress to occur during the day. Movement of the legs transiently relieves the uncomfortable sensation.

Symptoms are typically bilateral and rarely involve body parts besides the legs. It can be primary or secondary, with secondary RLS seen in chronic renal failure, iron deficiency, pregnancy, rheumatoid arthritis, and neuropathy. A positive family history is present in up to 60% of cases. Onset of symptoms is typically in middle to old age, but young adults may be affected. Symptoms are typically chronic and may progress, except in secondary RLS where symptoms may improve with treatment of the primary condition.


G25.81 – Restless legs syndrome

32914008 – Restless legs

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Drug-induced akathisia
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Radiculopathy (see Lumbar radiculopathy)
  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Caffeinism
  • Sedative withdrawal (see Benzodiazepine withdrawal syndrome)
  • Drug-induced movement disorders
  • Nocturnal leg cramps
  • Chorea gravidarum
  • Tic disorder

Best Tests

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Management Pearls

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Drug Reaction Data

Below is a list of drugs with literature evidence indicating an adverse association with this diagnosis. The list is continually updated through ongoing research and new medication approvals. Click on Citations to sort by number of citations or click on Medication to sort the medications alphabetically.

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Last Reviewed:08/27/2018
Last Updated:04/27/2023
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Restless legs syndrome
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