Unifying Concepts

Diagnostic Criteria and Associated Features of Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them.

Minimal Criteria

  1. A compelling urge to move the limbs, usually associated with paresthesias or dysesthesias
  2. Motor restlessness as seen in activities such as floor pacing, tossing and turning in bed and rubbing the legs
  3. Symptoms that are worse or present only during rest and are partially or temporarily relieved by activity
  4. Symptoms that are worse in the evening and at night

Associated Features

  1. Sleep disturbance and daytime fatigue
  2. Normal neurologic examination (in patients with primary RLS)
  3. Involuntary, repetitive, periodic, jerking limb movements, either in sleep or while awake and at rest



  1. Walters AS, for the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. Toward a better definition of the restless legs syndrome. Mov Disord 1995;10(5):634-42 [Medline]

  2. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Working Group on Restless Legs Syndrome. Restless legs syndrome: detection and management in primary care. Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jul 1;62(1):108-14. [Medline]

  3. Mathis J. Update on restless legs. Swiss Med Wkly. 2005 Dec 10;135(47-48):687-96. [Medline]

  4. Allen RP, Picchietti D, Hening WA, Trenkwalder C, Walters AS, Montplaisi J; Restless Legs Syndrome Diagnosis and Epidemiology workshop at the National Institutes of Health; International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. Restless legs syndrome: diagnostic criteria, special considerations, and epidemiology. A report from the restless legs syndrome diagnosis and epidemiology workshop at the National Institutes of Health. Sleep Med. 2003 Mar;4(2):101-19. [Medline]

Created: May 14, 2006
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