Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

The main symptoms are tingling sensations in both legs, which occur mainly at rest, i.e. mainly at night, and which disappear after walking around, moving the legs, massages, cold or warm baths, only to return immediately after rest.

For the affected person, this results in sleep disturbances and chronic sleep deprivation, which can lead to chronic overtiredness and exhaustion during the course of the day.


The cause is still unclear. It is probably a disorder in the so-called transmitter metabolism of the brain. In particular, the nerve messenger dopamine seems to play a role here, since the patients almost without exception respond well to drugs that improve the effect of this messenger. In some patients, the disease is inherited, the "primary RLS". Another part does not experience the symptoms until other diseases such as renal insufficiency, iron deficiency, rheumatoid arthritis, intervertebral disc disease or similar occur in addition. This is then referred to as "secondary RLS".

The incidence of RLS is high and is estimated to be between 5-10% of the population.


The diagnosis first requires the distinction between a "primary" and a "secondary" restless legs syndrome. This is done by neurological examination, exclusion of polyneuropathy, blood laboratory tests (e.g. iron deficiency) and measurement of nerve conduction velocities (NLG) (link) on the legs.


If treatable causes of secondary RLS have been ruled out, then good success can be achieved with the L-dopa or dopamine agonists used in Parkinson's treatment. It should be noted that although these drugs are used, there is no increased risk of developing Parkinson's disease due to either the treatment or the RLS disorder.

Further information