Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that affects approximately 10% of the adults in the U.S. The primary symptom of restless legs syndrome is an irresistible need to move the legs, particularly when trying to sleep.
The urge to move the legs is often accompanied by an incessant creeping, crawling, tingling or pulling sensation in the calves of the legs.
Symptoms may also include involuntary jerking of the limbs that intensifies in the evening or at night and is relieved by movement. Although the symptoms of restless legs syndrome may occur during sleep and wakefulness, they are most severe in the evening and nighttime hours.
To provide restless leg relief, people often must stretch, move, walk or kick, resulting in significant disruption to sleep quality. Patients suffering from the disorder tend to have difficulty falling or staying asleep and suffer from chronic sleep loss.
A similar condition known as periodic limb movement disorder only occurs at night. Individuals with this disorder are often unaware that they have the condition since muscles in the leg contract involuntarily throughout the night, partially awakening them.
More than 80% of the people with restless legs syndrome also suffer from periodic limb movement disorder. Symptoms of periodic limb movement disorder include involuntary leg twitching or jerking movements during sleep that occur repeatedly throughout the night resulting in disrupted sleep. Periodic limb movement disorder tends to increase in frequency with age. Ongoing research suggests that the disorder may be linked to adverse cardiovascular consequences, including higher rates of hypertension.