Restless legs syndrome (RLS) can be tricky to diagnose, largely because symptoms tend to be worse at night and less obvious in the doctor's office.
RLS can appear or get worse during pregnancy, and is more common in those with conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or anemia. But it can strike people without those problems too.
If you think you might have RLS, read on to see the signs and symptoms that are used to diagnose the condition—which is treatable.
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A strong urge to move your legs you may not be able to resist
People who feel this urge say their need to move their legs is often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations.
Some words used to describe these sensations include creeping, itching, pulling, creepy-crawly, tugging, or gnawing.
This is one of the criteria necessary for diagnosis, so if you don't have it you may not have restless legs syndrome.
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Symptoms make it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep
A substantial number of people who have RLS also have periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS). PLMS are repetitive movements that occur every 20 to 30 seconds on and off throughout the night and can cause partial awakenings that disrupt sleep.
If you feel like these symptoms or others make it hard to fall or stay asleep, you're not aloneit's often one of the chief complaints among people with restless legs syndrome.
It's not, however, one of the four criteria necessary for diagnosis. (Although doctors may use it to support a diagnosis.)
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Symptoms get better when you move your legs
If the uncomfortable sensations go away when you move your legs, it's another sign of RLS.
The relief can be complete or only partial but generally starts very soon after starting an activity. Relief persists as long as the movement continues.
This is one of the criteria necessary for diagnosis.
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Your symptoms start or get worse at rest
The longer you are at rest, the greater the chance the symptoms will occur and the more severe they are likely to be.
This is one of the four criteria necessary for an RLS diagnosis.
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Symptoms are worse in the evening, especially when lying down
Symptoms worsening in the evening is another one of the criteria necessary for an RLS diagnosis.
If your symptoms aren't worse at night, it may not be RLS. Some people with RLS, however, can have severe daytime symptoms too.
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