Ekbom's syndrome; Nocturnal leg cramps; Periodic limb movement disorder
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) may affect 3 - 15% of the general population. It is more common in women than in men, and its frequency increases with age. The disorder affects an estimated 10 - 28% of adults older than age 65. In about 40% of patients, RLS begins in adolescence.
RLS may be more common than epilepsy and diabetes in children and teens.
As many as two-thirds of people with restless legs syndrome (RLS) have a family history of the disorder. If so, RLS is more likely to occur before they turn 40. (A family history of RLS is less likely in people who develop it as older adults.) RLS is also more common in people from northern and western Europe, giving added support for a genetic basis for some cases.
Restless legs syndrome and periodic leg movement disorder in children are strongly associated with inattention and hyperactivity. Up to a quarter of children diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may also have RLS, sleep apnea, and PLMD, and this may actually contribute to inattentiveness and hyperactivity. The disorders have much in common, including poor sleep habits, twitching, and the need to get up suddenly and walk about frequently. Some evidence suggests that the link between the diseases may be a deficiency in the brain chemical dopamine.
About 20% of pregnant women report having RLS. The condition usually goes away about a month after delivery. RLS in this population has been strongly associated with deficiencies in iron and the B vitamin folate.
Between 20 - 62% of people undergoing dialysis report restless legs syndrome. Symptoms often disappear after a kidney transplant.
Anxiety can cause restlessness and agitation at night. These symptoms can cause (or strongly resemble) restless legs syndrome.
The following medical conditions are also associated with restless legs syndrome, although the relationships are not clear. In some cases, these conditions may contribute to RLS, or they may have a common cause. In some cases, they may coexist due to other risk factors:
Several environmental and dietary factors can worsen or provoke restless legs syndrome:
Drugs that worsen or provoke RLS include:
About 6% of the general population has periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). Among the elderly, the prevalence increases to 25 - 58%. Studies suggest that PLMD may be especially common in elderly women. As with RLS, numerous conditions are associated with PLMD. They include sleep apnea, spinal cord injuries, stroke, narcolepsy, and diseases that destroy nerves or the brain over time. Certain medications, including some antidepressants and anti-seizure medications, may also contribute to PLMD.
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