Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Penn State Neuroscience Institute has one of the world’s leading investigative teams working on Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). This team is comprised of physicians and nurses from the Sleep Research and Treatment Center, Neurosurgery, Neurology, Psychiatry and Pain Management. We also have staff in our research lab actively working on RLS-related symptoms and causes.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder, characterized by a compelling urge to move the legs. The patient suffers from unusual or unpleasant sensations generally in the leg that are relieved by movement. These sensations are usually uncomfortable and worsen during periods of rest or inactivity. Some researchers estimate that RLS affects as many as twelve million Americans, but despite being a common disorder, RLS is generally under-diagnosed.

The cause of RLS is still unclear. RLS has most often been found in middle-aged or older adults. Twenty-five percent of people with RLS have found it to be hereditary.

RLS may occur more often in patients with the following:

Peripheral Neuropathy Chronic Kidney Disease Parkinson's Disease
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) Pregnancy Iron Deficiency
Certain medications, such as anti-nausea and anti-psychotic    

The symptoms are associated with a range of sensations that patients will describe as feeling like their legs are packed in concrete, or having ants crawling in their veins. In general, the symptoms are some form of unpleasant sensation that get worse in the evenings or at night when the patient is trying to rest or trying to go to bed. They are not leg cramps. The symptoms are often relieved by movement or some form of stimulation to the legs (e.g. warming or rubbing). Symptoms often disturb the quality of sleep and may last for an hour or longer.

Dysesthetic Lower Limb Pain (DLLP) is often associated with RLS, and interventions to relieve this pain may reduce the compulsion for leg movement.

There is no known cure for Restless Legs Syndrome, but treatment options exist. Treatment is aimed at reducing stress and helping the muscles relax. Often, treating the associated medical condition will alleviate many symptoms.

There is no specific examination for RLS, but in order to be diagnosed with RLS, you must meet four criteria items:
• Strong urge to move your legs, which you may not be able to resist.
• Symptoms start or worsen when you are resting.
• Symptoms get better when you move your legs.
• Symptoms are worse in the evening.

The individual who thinks they have these symptoms should see a physician who is knowledgeable about RLS. Treatments are available.


Neurology visit - RLS  or  Neurosurgery appointment - DLLP, please call 717-531-3828.

Sleep Research and Treatment Center - please call 717-531-8520.

Pain Management - please call 717-531-6834.

Toll-Free 800-243-1455.

Stephanie Patton, PhD has been awarded her fourth grant from the RLS Foundation. This years grant has the potential to develop and identify diagnostic and treatment strategies. You can read the full article from the RLS Foundation.