What causes Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

There are common misconceptions about Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). There is no one definitive way patients experience it, which complicates its definition. To describe the sensation, Some use comparisons like “like ants crawling on my skin” or “like fizz going through my veins.”

In this post, we will break down for you the definition of Restless Leg Syndrome as well as some of the ways it is treated and prevented.

What is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)?

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a disorder with symptoms that include tickling or twitching in the leg muscles, typically when sitting or lying down. It can stop you from getting a good night’s sleep and generally gets more intense over time.

They call it “restless” because when you begin to feel pains, you have the urge to get up and move around to stop it from hurting. Movement helps make the feeling go away.

What Causes Restless Leg Syndrome?

The cause is unclear.

In the past, restless leg syndrome was commonly thought to be a side effect of venous insufficiency. Restless Leg Syndrome is now thought to be related to chemicals in the brain being abnormal. These chemicals, called neurotransmitters, are the ones responsible for regulation of muscle movements.

It is also possible that RLS comes from abnormalities in the nervous system – those responsible for controlling automatic movements.

There are times where RLS is known to be caused by other illnesses. This case is referred to as “secondary RLS.” However, this is rare and most of the time the causes are unclear.

Treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome in Adults

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a serious, but remediable disorder.

The crucial thing to know about living with RLS is you have to manage the symptoms. Lifestyle changes are important to fix this issue, like limiting caffeine and alcohol, taking iron pills, or initiating a worthwhile exercise plan, and seeing a healthcare professional to discuss treatment options that can help.

Everyone experiences the disorder differently, so it is important to work with your healthcare professional to determine the best way for you to control your symptoms.

Here are some things that might help:

  • Checking to see if there is an underlying iron or vitamin deficiency and then possibly supplementing your diet with iron, vitamin B12 or folate.
  • Looking at your diet to assure it is healthy and well-adjusted.
  • Eliminating or greatly decreasing your alcohol consumption.


Lifestyle Changes


Eating a healthy diet can help promote good sleep. Limit how much alcohol and caffeine you consume, and be sure to avoid these before bedtime. You can also stay away from any foods that you know that might keep you awake.


Smoking can make the body feel jittery and can have an impact on sleep. Try cutting down on smoking or quitting completely.


Sometimes medications that you take for other conditions can make it difficult for your muscles to relax or can cause insomnia. Make sure to review the medications you are taking with your doctor and see if any of these are contributing to your condition.


One of the most effective remedies is preventative: exercise. People with RLS who exercise daily for 30 to 60 minutes’ report less fatigue, fewer symptoms, and better sleep habits. Yoga has been found to be particularly helpful to some who suffer from RLS.

The exercise doesn’t have to be intense, and you don’t have to exceed expectations for yourself – just do what you can. Walking, jogging or any variety of fitness will help your legs and will advance your chances of sleeping.

Vein Care Doctors in Chicago, Illinois

Interested in vein care or treatment for Restless Leg Syndrome? You can reach out to us any time at one of our two locations (Downtown & North Center, Chicago).

We are happy to discuss treatment options during a consultation with you, where we can assess your vein condition and put together a treatment plan to help your veins return to a healthy state.

We offer free vein screenings at select times.

Learn more about the services we offer or free screening dates by calling our North Center location at 773-231-9884 or our Downtown Chicago location at 312-234-0750

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Chicago Vein Institute is a practice solely dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of vein diseases. The experts at CVI perform the latest and most effective treatments for painful varicose veins, spider veins, and other vein-related disorders. CVI offers minimally invasive treatment options, including Endovenous Laser Ablation (EVLA), Ambulatory Phlebectomy, Ultrasound-Guided Sclerotherapy, Surface Sclerotherapy, Elastic Compression Stockings and wound care for venous ulcers, performing more than 11,000 vein-related procedures annually. Same-Day appointments and multi-lingual team members standing by to assist.