Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Is it possible to have symptoms in other areas of the body?
  2. Can taking vitamin or mineral supplements help my symptoms?
  3. Are there any medications that can make symptoms worse?
  4. Are there any substances I should avoid?
  5. I suspect that my child may have RLS.  Is this possible?
  6. Is RLS hereditary?
  7. Is there a known cause for RLS?
  8. Are there exercises that can help alleviate symptoms?
  9. What are the side effects of RLS medications?
  10. Can you give me a list of support groups/contacts in my area?
  11. Where can I find more information?
  12. How can I help?

1.  Is it possible to have symptoms in other areas of the body?

Yes, Restless Legs Syndrome can affect the arms or even the trunk.

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2.  Can taking vitamin or mineral supplements help my symptoms?

If an underlying iron or vitamin deficiency is found to cause your disease, supplementing with iron, vitamin B or folate (as indicated) may reduce or even alleviate your symptoms.  Because the use of even moderate amounts of some minerals (such as iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium) can impair your body's ability to use other minerals or can cause toxicity, you should use mineral supplements only on the advice of your healthcare provider.

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3.  Are there any medications that can make symptoms worse?

Yes.  These include:

  • Antihistamines (like Benadryl) found in many cold, allergy and over-the-counter sleep aids
  • Antidizziness, antinausea medications like Meclizine, Compazine, Phenergan and Reglan
  • Antidepressants such a Elavil, Prozac, Lexapro and Effexor
  • Psychiatric medications such a haloperidol and phenothiazines that are used to treat biopolar disorders, schizophrenia and other serious disorders

Always be sure that your healthcare provider is aware of all the medicines you are taking, including herbal and over-the-counter medications. Please see our medications handout for more information, available to Foundation Members, join today!

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4.  Are there any substances I should avoid?

Caffeine use may intensify RLS symptoms.  Caffeine-containing products, including chocolate and caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soft drinks, should be avoided.  Alchohol consumption also increases the span or intensity of symptoms for most individuals. Please read our triggers handout for more information, available to Foundation Members, join today!

 

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5.  I suspect that my child may have RLS.  Is this possible?

While RLS is most often diagnosed in middle-aged individuals, the disease affects people of all ages.  Adults can usually trace their symptoms back to their childhood and often remember hearing things like "those are growing pains" or "quit wiggling so much."  Evidence connecting RLS and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is growing.

To learn more, read our handout: Children & RLS, available to Foundation Members, join today!

 

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6.  Is RLS hereditary?

RLS is familial in about 50 percent of affected individuals which is consistent with a genetic origin.  It also may be idiopathic or related to acquired conditions, especially iron deficiency and chronic renal failure.  Several predisposing candidate genes have been identified through genome wide association studies.

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7.  Is there a known cause for RLS?

Extensive research into the cause of RLS is underway worldwide.  A single unifying cause has not been identified, but we are getting closer.   Here is what we do know:

  • RLS often runs in families.  This is called primary or familial RLS.  Researchers are currently looking for the gene or genes that cause the disease.
  • RLS sometimes appears to be a result of another condition, which, when present, worsens the underlying RLS.  This is called secondary RLS.
  • Up to 25 percent of women develop the disease during pregnancy but symptoms often disappear after giving birth.
  • Anemia and low iron levels frequently contribute to a worsening of symptoms.
  • RLS is very common in patients requiring dialysis for end-stage renal disease.
  • Damage to the nerves of the hands or feet (i.e., peripheral neuropathy) from any number of causes, including diabetes, contributes to RLS.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is common in children and adults with RLS.

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8.  Are there exercises that can help alleviate symptoms?

In 2006, a small study found that a combination of moderate aerobic exercise and lower-body resistance training three days a week reduced symptom severity by about 50 percent.  The study found that it took six weeks to see maximum benefit from the exercise program.  In general, people with RLS have reported that moderate exercise seems helpful and that strenuous exercise may worsen symptoms.
 
Many RLS Foundation members share their personal success stories through "Bedtime Stories" a section of our quarterly newsletter, NightWalkers.  You can also learn more by reading our exercise handout, available to Foundation Members, join today!

 

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9.  What are the side effects of RLS medications?

Each medication you use carries risk of side effects.  For details on specific side effects, it is best to discuss your prescription with your physician.  Helpful online resources include:

  • The Foundation's RLS Medical Bulletin, available to Foundation Members, join today!
  • Medications for RLS, available to Foundation Members, join today!

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10.  Can you give me a list of support groups/contacts in my area?

Of course!  Click here for a list of support groups or contacts near you.  No group in your area?  Consider finding support online on our Discussion Board, or starting a group yourself.

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11.  Where can I find more information?

Our most popular patient publication, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment for the Patient Living with Restless Legs Syndrome, is our gift to you!  If you would like to recieve a paper copy, call us at 512-366-9109 or send us an email.

To receive the most up-to-date and comprehensive information, you can become a member of the RLS Foundation.  You will receive our quarterly newsletter, NightWalkers, which features updates on treatment and research, as well as answers to reader questions from top RLS specialists.

We have many other publications that you can share with your personal physician.  For a complete listing of RLS Foundation publications, click here.

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12.  How can I help?

The RLS Foundation depends on people like you to continue our mission.  Here are just a few ways you can make a difference to the RLS community:

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