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
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
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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