What causes RLS, is there a cure for RLS?


This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

What causes RLS? In July of 2007, researchers discovered a gene variant for RLS, which helps explain why it may be traced through generations in families. Researchers believe this gene increases one’s risk for a type of hereditary RLS, known as primary or familial RLS. Is there a cure for RLS? There is currently no cure for RLS. However, in most cases RLS symptoms can be controlled through lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise, and medical treatments as appropriate. People with RLS should speak with their health care professional to learn how to manage their RLS symptoms. To help you keep track of your symptoms and bridge the conversation about symptoms with your health care professional, click here to access the RLS Symptom Diary and RLS Symptom Diary Summary. Tracking and talking about your symptoms may help your health care professional make an accurate diagnosis and then help you develop a treatment plan that’s right for you. Who does RLS affect?RLS affects a range of people. In fact:

  • Up to 10 percent of the U.S. adult population is affected by mild, moderate or severe symptoms of RLS, which often go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
  • The average age of patients who begin to be affected by RLS is 46. A study of people living with RLS found that approximately 35 percent reported experiencing symptoms before the age of 20. Another study found that patients experienced symptoms before the age of 10.
  • RLS is slightly more common in women than in men.
  • RLS can affect people regardless of race/ethnicity.
  • The severity of the condition increases as one ages; older patients experience symptoms more frequently and for longer periods of time.
  • Sixty-three percent of people with RLS report that at least one family member lives with the condition.

Is there a difference between primary RLS and secondary RLS? There are two types of RLS, primary and secondary. Primary RLS, also known as idiopathic RLS, is the most common type of RLS5 and can be hereditary. Primary RLS has no known cause. Secondary RLS occurs as a result of an underlying medical condition or in association with the use of certain drugs. For example, some conditions that may cause secondary RLS include kidney failure, low levels of iron, anemia, pregnancy, and peripheral neuropathy. Stress, diet or other environmental factors may also play a role in the development of RLS.