May 2009


Restless legs syndrome

Volume 38, No.5, May 2009 Pages 296-300

Brendon Yee

Roo Killick

Keith Wong


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common, but frequently undiagnosed, chronic, sensorimotor disorder. In western countries, it is seen in approximately 10% of the general population, with a higher prevalence in women and the elderly (10–20%).


This article outlines the epidemiology, aetiology, diagnosis and management of RLS. Information that is most relevant to general practice is presented, with an emphasis on practical management.


Restless legs syndrome is divided into primary and secondary forms. There is a strong genetic influence in primary RLS. Secondary forms are associated with iron deficiency, pregnancy, and renal failure. Diagnosis is essentially by clinical history using simple diagnostic criteria. Management depends on severity, and ranges from nonpharmacologic to pharmacologic measures. Recent research has provided insights into the pathophysiology of RLS and provided an evidence base for some of the newer treatments.

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