Restless legs syndrome

Clin Med (Lond). 2016 Aug;16(4):379-82. doi: 10.7861/clinmedicine.16-4-379.


Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease (WED), is a common movement disorder characterised by an uncontrollable urge to move because of uncomfortable, sometimes painful sensations in the legs with a diurnal variation and a release with movement. The pathophysiology is only partially known and a genetic component together with dopaminergic and brain iron dysregulation plays an important role. Secondary causes for RLS need to be excluded. Treatment depends on the severity and frequency of RLS symptoms, comprises non-pharmacological (eg lifestyle changes) and pharmacological interventions (eg dopaminergic medication, alpha-2-delta calcium channel ligands, opioids) and relieves symptoms only. Augmentation is the main complication of long-term dopaminergic treatment of RLS. This article will provide a clinically useful overview of RLS with provision of diagnostic criteria, differential diagnoses, possible investigations and different treatment strategies with their associated complications.

Keywords: RLS; Restless legs syndrome; WED; Willis-Ekbom disease; side effects; treatment.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dopamine Agents / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Restless Legs Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Restless Legs Syndrome* / drug therapy


  • Dopamine Agents