Harvard Men's Health Watch

Ask the doctor: Diagnosing restless legs syndrome

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Q. For many years, I have felt like my legs have to constantly move, and sometimes I feel crawling sensations when I am resting. Do I need to be tested for restless legs syndrome?

A. Your symptoms are consistent with restless legs syndrome (RLS), a common condition marked by uncomfortable sensations in the legs or a need to move them to relieve the discomfort. There is no test to confirm RLS, so it's diagnosed based on symptoms alone.

There are several things to consider if you are diagnosed with this condition. Inherited factors contribute, so at least one member of your family may also have RLS. Various things can worsen the symptoms of RLS, such as taking antidepressants and antihistamine medications. Diabetes, neuropathy, and kidney disease are often associated with RLS. You should be tested for iron deficiency, because treating it may reduce the RLS symptoms. It is unclear how low iron leads to RLS, but it appears to influence the effect of a brain chemical called dopamine. In fact, medications that increase the effect of dopamine are commonly used to treat RLS.

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