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Guide to Restless Legs Syndrome


Updated May 22, 2014

5 of 10

Part 5 of 10 - What Causes Restless Legs Syndrome?

RLS Causes

In most cases, the cause of RLS is unknown. A family history of the condition is seen in approximately 50% of such cases, suggesting a genetic form of the disorder. People with familial RLS tend to be younger when symptoms start and have a slower progression of the condition.

Related Factors

In other cases, RLS appears to be related to the following factors or conditions, although researchers don't yet know if these factors actually cause RLS.

  • People with low iron levels or anemia may be prone to developing RLS. Once iron levels or anemia is corrected, patients may see a reduction in symptoms.
  • Chronic diseases associated with RLS include kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson's disease,peripheral neuropathy.

Treating the underlying condition often provides relief from RLS symptoms.

  • Some pregnant women experience RLS, especially in the last trimester. For most, symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery.
  • Certain medications such as antinausea, antiseizure and antipsychotic drugs, and some cold/allergy medicines, may aggravate symptoms. Talk with your doctor about the possibility of changing drugs.


Researchers have found that caffeine, alcohol and tobacco may aggravate or trigger symptoms in patients who are predisposed to RLS. Some studies have shown that a reduction or complete elimination of such substances may relieve symptoms, although it remains unclear whether elimination of such substances can prevent RLS symptoms from occurring at all.

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