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Guide to Restless Legs Syndrome

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Updated May 22, 2014

6 of 10

Part 6 of 10 - What Is the Diagnostic Criteria for Restless Legs Syndrome?

No Single Diagnostic Test for Restless Legs Syndrome

Currently, there is no single diagnostic test for restless legs syndrome. The disorder is diagnosed clinically by evaluating the patient's history and symptoms. Despite a clear description of clinical features, the condition is often misdiagnosed or underdiagnosed.

Four Basic Criteria for Diagnosing Restless Legs Syndrome

In 1995, the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group identified four basic criteria for diagnosing restless legs syndrome:

  • a desire to move the limbs, often associated with paresthesias or dysesthesias
  • symptoms that are worse or present only during rest and are partially or temporarily relieved by activity
  • motor restlessness
  • nocturnal worsening of symptoms

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder Not Necessary for Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosis

Although about 80 percent of those with restless legs syndrome also experience periodic limb movement disorder, it is not necessary for a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome. In more severe cases, patients may experience dyskinesia (uncontrolled, often continuous movements) while awake, and some experience symptoms in one or both of their arms as well as their legs. Most people with restless legs syndrome have sleep disturbances, largely because of the limb discomfort and jerking. The result is excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

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