Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) and Sleep

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would indicate depression if assessed without knowledge or consideration of a sleep disorder.

What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

The exact cause of RLS is unknown.

Primary RLS  is the most common type of RLS. It is also referred to as familial (because it is hereditary) or idiopathic (because the causes are unknown) RLS.

Secondary RLS , on the other hand, is believed to be caused by a separate underlying medical condition or in association with the use of certain drugs. For example, some of these conditions include vein disease in the legs such as varicose veins, kidney failure, low levels of iron or anemia, pregnancy, and peripheral neuropathy (a problem with the nerves that carry information to and from the brain and spinal cord that produces pain, loss of sensation, and inability to control muscles). Stress, diet or other environmental factors can also play a role in developing secondary RLS.

Several research teams have taken a closer look at what might cause primary RLS. In particular, recent studies at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania State Colleges have found evidence for brain iron deficiency as a cause for primary RLS. This was first demonstrated in cerebrospinal fluid studies and more recently by the first-ever autopsy analysis of the brains of people with RLS. The autopsy studies reported that cells from the portion of the brain called the substantia nigra showed a deficit in one of the proteins that regulates iron status. However, this evidence suggests that the iron insufficiency in the brain of RLS patients comes directly from a failure of normal iron regulation. In terms of finding a cure, this is good news. The results of this study show that there is no brain damage in people with RLS and that drugs that target the problem of iron uptake may be one way to approach future developments of a treatment.

More than 80 percent of people with RLS also suffer from a condition known as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Characteristics of PLMD include involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that occur repeatedly throughout the night and result in

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