Diagnostic Criteria for RLS

These five essential features must be present for a diagnosis of restless legs syndrome:

  • You have a strong urge to move your legs (sometimes arms and trunk), usually accompanied or caused by uncomfortable and unpleasant sensations in the legs. 

  • Your symptoms begin or become worse when you are resting or inactive, such as when lying down or sitting. 

  • Your symptoms get better when you move, such as when you walk or stretch, at least as long as the activity continues. 

  • Your symptoms are worse in the evening or night than during the day, or only occur in the evening or nighttime hours. 

  • Your symptoms are not solely accounted for by another condition such as leg cramps, positional discomfort, leg swelling or arthritis. WED/RLS often causes difficulty in falling or staying asleep, one of the chief complaints of the syndrome. Many people who have the disease also have periodic limb movements (PLMs)—jerking of the arms or legs that is often associated with sleep disruption.

How do doctors diagnose RLS?

Your doctor should:

  • Listen to a description of your symptoms and complete a diagnostic interview checking for symptoms listed under the essential criteria.

  • Review your medical history.

  • Complete a thorough physical exam. 

  • Rule out conditions that may be confused with RLS.

Your doctor might:

  • Check your iron (ferritin) levels.

  • Ask you to stay overnight in a sleep study lab to determine other causes of your sleep disturbance.

Find a Healthcare Provider

To better serve its members, the Foundation maintains a directory of healthcare providers who have expressed interest and/or knowledge in the treatment of RLS. You can locate a provider in your area by clicking here. If you do not find a doctor in your area, try to broaden your search criteria or search by state. You do not have to put in a city to search.

RLS Symptom Diary

The RLS Symptom Diary is a convenient tool to record information on your daily symptoms such as when they occur and how long they last.  Tips for filling out the diary include:

  • Fill out your RLS Symptom Diary before you go to bed each night and before you get out of bed each morning.

  • The times you record in your Symptom Diary do not have be exact—just make a good guess.

  • Reviewing your Symptom Diary with your bed partner can help you identify unknown symptoms or time frames.

Click here to download your Symptom Diary.

How can I use my Symptom Diary?
After recording in your Symptom Diary for about two weeks, review your diary.  You may find that some of your habits, such as drinking caffeinated beverages or exercising close to bedtime, regularly make your symptoms worse.  

We have also developed a one-page Symptom Diary Summary to share with your healthcare provider.  Use it to record the main points from your Symptom Diary to summarize the information you collected each night.  

Click here to download your Symptom Diary Summary.