Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome

Unpleasant sensations from Restless Legs Syndrome (Willis-Ekbom disease) can occur while sitting still or during sleep, causing an irresistible urge to move. It can be difficult to get comfortable, and sometimes a person with RLS can experience involuntary twitching or jerking.

While studies have shown that RLS has been associated with changes in the dopamine system as well as iron levels, there is no known cause. However, it is important to note that more than half of people with RLS have a family history of the condition.

There are two categories of RLS based on cause:

Primary or idiopathic means that the cause of RLS is unknown, that there is no disease-related cause. Symptoms may begin anytime in a person's life but become more common with age. About 70% of people with RLS have primary RLS.

Secondary RLS affects about 30% of people with RLS and means there's an association with other conditions, including:

  • Iron deficiency
  • Pregnancy
  • End-stage renal disease (ESRD)

NEUPRO® (rotigotine transdermal system) is a prescription medicine used to treat moderate-to-severe primary Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS). NEUPRO has not been studied in secondary RLS.

RLS is more commonly found in smokers and people who don't exercise regularly (less than three hours a month). Talk to your doctor if you have any of these conditions and you think you may have RLS.

Is RLS affecting your life?

Some people have to live their lives around their RLS symptoms. Do you?

See “How Is RLS Affecting You?” to find out >

Restless Legs Syndrome – mild and moderate-to-severe

For some, RLS can be mildly annoying, but for others it can have a much greater impact.

Mild means RLS occurs occasionally (less than 2 nights a week).

Moderate-to-severe means RLS has a negative impact on people's lives. They suffer either every day or at least twice a week. People with moderate-to-severe RLS generally get less than five hours of sleep a night. In addition to nighttime symptoms, there may be daytime symptoms too. Daily treatment may be necessary for these people.

If you're affected by moderate-to-severe primary RLS, NEUPRO may be able to help.

Prepare for your next doctor's appointment

It's not always easy to pinpoint your feelings and communicate them to your doctor. This tool will help you get started.

Build a conversation by selecting key points from the items below. Any items you selected while using the site have already been added to your list. When you are finished, you can print or email your custom list using the buttons below.

This website does not save items added to My Doctor Conversation Builder. Be sure to print or email your list of questions before leaving this website.

Prepare for your next doctor's appointment

Build a list of key points to discuss with your doctor by selecting items from the list below. Click the "Items to ask my doctor" icon at the top of the screen to view, edit, and print your list at any time.

Assess your RLS

If you think you may have RLS, it's important to understand how much of an effect the condition has on your life. It may have a bigger impact than you realize. Below are some statements that describe how people with RLS can feel. Check the ones that apply to you. This does not take the place of a doctor visit. Only your doctor can diagnose you with RLS.

NEUPRO has been approved by the FDA to treat moderate-to-severe primary RLS and the approval was based on improvements in overall symptom scores in clinical trials. The efficacy of NEUPRO for individual symptoms has not been demonstrated. The following information is provided for your education and to help you understand your disease.

Because of my RLS:

Here's a list of common terms that people with RLS use to describe what's happening in their limbs. Do any of these describe how you're feeling? Check off the descriptions that apply to add them to My Doctor Conversation Builder.


Please select the statements that apply to you and click "submit" again.

  • Your checked items are now reflected in My Doctor Conversation Builder.

    It looks like symptoms from RLS affect you when you are trying to rest, relax, or sit still.

    NEUPRO may help.