Restless leg syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom Disease, is a neurological disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, usually due to an uncomfortable sensation. This urge is typically heightened during the evening or at night when a person is sitting or lying down.
While RLS primarily affects the legs, in some cases, it may extend to the arms or other parts of the body. Beyond the disruption in sleep, RLS can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Read below to learn about the causes of this disorder.
Factors and Triggers for Restless Leg Syndrome
The precise cause of RLS remains elusive. However, various factors and conditions are believed to contribute to or exacerbate the condition:
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Family history plays a role in this syndrome, especially if RLS onset occurs at a younger age. Specific genes have been linked to RLS. 
2. Dopamine Dysregulation
Dopamine, a crucial neurotransmitter for muscle movement control, plays a central role. Dysfunctional dopamine pathways can lead to RLS.
Pregnancy, particularly in the third trimester, can temporarily induce RLS in women. However, symptoms often subside within a month after giving birth.
4. Iron Deficiency
Low iron levels in the brain, even without anemia, may be associated with RLS. Iron supplementation often alleviates RLS symptoms.
5. Chronic Conditions
Conditions like peripheral neuropathy, chronic kidney disease, and diabetes can initiate or exacerbate RLS. Treating these underlying conditions can often alleviate RLS.
Certain drugs, such as specific antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, and anti-nausea medications, can worsen RLS. Always consult a doctor if you suspect your medications may exacerbate your symptoms.
7. Lifestyle Factors
Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco may intensify RLS symptoms for some individuals. Additionally, sleep deprivation or sleep disorders can trigger or worsen the symptoms.
8. Neurological Disorders
Conditions like Parkinson’s disease and related disorders often coexist with RLS.
9. Venous Insufficiency
Impaired leg veins can be associated with RLS, although further research is needed.
Uremic RLS describes a collection of symptoms occurring when there is impaired kidney function. Treating kidney disease can ease RLS symptoms.
11. Psychological Stress
Physical and psychological stress can exacerbate RLS symptoms. Stress can affect neurotransmitter balance, disrupt sleep, increase muscle tension, and overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system. In the context of RLS, stress can often create a vicious cycle: stress exacerbates RLS symptoms, and discomfort and sleep disturbances from RLS increase stress levels.
Restless Leg Syndrome affects many people, reducing sleep quality and overall well-being. Identifying potential causes or triggers, including psychological stress, can be crucial for effective management and treatment. Anyone suspecting they have RLS should consult a physician for accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment.