Restless legs syndrome and nocturnal leg cramps: a review and guide to diagnosis and treatment

Pol Arch Intern Med. 2017 Dec 22;127(12):865-872. doi: 10.20452/pamw.4148. Epub 2017 Nov 9.


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and nocturnal leg cramps (NLCs) are common disorders affecting 7.0% and 24.1% of the population in some European countries, respectively. Patients suffering from RLS experience uncomfortable nocturnal sensations in the legs with the urge to move that dissipates while moving. NLC is characterized by abrupt muscle contraction, most often in the gastrocnemius or foot muscles, which occurs at night and may result in significant sleep disturbances. The diagnosis of these disorders has presented a challenge to health care providers because of symptom overlap with other sensory and motor disturbances with nocturnal predominance. Treatment options and approaches are lacking, partially because of our currently incomplete understanding of the pathophysiological mechanisms underlying these conditions. We reviewed the medical literature to provide a comprehensive assessment of RLS and NLC with a focus on improved diagnostic accuracy and treatment approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / diagnosis*
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Restless Legs Syndrome / therapy
  • Sleep-Wake Transition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Sleep-Wake Transition Disorders / physiopathology
  • Sleep-Wake Transition Disorders / therapy