Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Doctors diagnose RLS by listening to your description of your symptoms and by interviewing you about your medical history. To be diagnosed with RLS, you must meet four criteria established by the International Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group:

  • You have a strong, often irresistible urge to move your legs, usually accompanied by uncomfortable sensations. These sensations are typically described as crawling, creeping, cramping, tingling, pulling, tugging or itching.
  • Your symptoms start or get worse when you're resting, such as sitting or lying down.
  • Your symptoms are partially or temporarily relieved by activity, such as walking or stretching, for as long as you keep moving.
  • Your symptoms are worse at night.

Blood tests or muscle or nerve studies may be ordered to exclude other possible causes for your symptoms.

In addition, your doctor may refer you to a sleep specialist for additional evaluation. This may require that you stay overnight at a sleep clinic, where doctors can study your sleep habits closely and check for leg twitching (periodic limb movements) during sleep — a possible sign of RLS. However, a diagnosis of RLS usually doesn't require a sleep study.

Jan. 19, 2012

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