Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

1 min read

Woman runner rubbing leg

Doctors and researchers are still trying to understand what causes Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and they suspect that genetics plays a role. Nearly half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition. RLS usually starts before the age of 45, and some individuals have had symptoms since childhood. Symptoms will gradually worsen and occur more often over time.

Secondary Causes of RLS

“Secondary” refers to condition caused by another disease process or condition. However, emerging research now suggests we may be able to influence other RLS causes, including issues related to circulation, inflammation, neurotransmitter production, muscle function and nutrient depletion. Secondary RLS symptoms usually begin after age 45 and do not tend to be hereditary. If you have this type you will experience a more abrupt onset and symptoms do not usually get worse as time goes by. However, some medications used to treat RLS may themselves worsen your symptoms due to augmentation, tolerance or withdrawal.

Diseases and symptoms that have been known to trigger RLS include:

  • Diabetes
  • Iron deficiency
  • Kidney failure
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Pregnancy
  • Rheumatoid arthritis

Medication Causes

Some medications can also trigger RLS. Symptoms come on abruptly, start later in life and may be more severe.

According to the Center for Restless Legs, John Hopkins Medicine, “In the last 20 years, there has been a substantial amount of research into understanding the cause of RLS. From that research there appear to be three factors which are pertinent to the disease: brain concentrations of iron, brain dopamine concentrations and genes.”

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