Some neurologists believe that the symptoms of restless legs syndrome may have something to do with how the body handles a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine is involved in controlling muscle movement and may be responsible for the involuntary leg movements associated with restless legs syndrome.
It is said that RLS affects as many as 1 in 10 people in the UK at some point in their life. The condition is more common in women, and in middle age. Women are twice as likely to develop restless legs syndrome as men.1
In some cases, restless legs syndrome is caused by an underlying health condition, such as iron deficiency anaemia or kidney failure. This is known as secondary restless legs syndrome.
There’s also a link between restless legs syndrome and pregnancy. About 1 in 5 pregnant women will experience symptoms in the last three months of their pregnancy, although it’s not clear exactly why this is. In such cases, restless legs syndrome usually disappears after the woman has given birth.2
In most cases, doctors do not know the cause of restless legs syndrome; however, they suspect that genes play a role. Nearly half of people with RLS also have a family member with the condition. This has led them to believe that the condition may run in families.
Other factors of RLS may include alcohol use and sleep deprivation, may trigger symptoms or make them worse. Improving sleep or eliminating alcohol use in these cases may relieve symptoms.