How is restless legs syndrome (RLS) diagnosed?

No specific laboratory test can diagnose restless legs syndrome (RLS), so it usually depends on your symptoms.

To help make a diagnosis, your healthcare professional may ask about all current and past medical problems, family history and medications. You may need basic laboratory tests to assess your general health and a blood test to rule out anemia. A complete physical, a neurological exam and additional diagnostic and/or additional blood tests may help identify other conditions that may be associated with RLS.

Those other conditions your healthcare professional will be looking for include kidney failure, diabetes and nerve damage. Certain medications are associated with RLS as well, including antiseizure drugs such as phenytoin (Dilantin), antinausea drugs such as prochlorperazine (Compazine) or metoclopramide (Reglan), antipsychotic drugs such as haloperidol (Haldol) and some antidepressant medications, including fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil) and sertraline (Zoloft). Some cold and allergy medications may also aggravate symptoms.

In some cases, your healthcare professional may suggest an overnight sleep study to determine whether you have PLM disorder or other sleep problems. Most people with RLS, however, have no identifiable cause for their RLS and do not require a sleep study.

There is no surefire test to confirm a restless legs syndrome diagnosis. In most cases, doctors will use your symptoms to decide whether or not you have the condition. Because anemia, low iron levels, and kidney or liver problems are often linked to RLS, your doctor may do a blood test to check for these conditions.

Talk to a doctor if you think you have restless legs syndrome. The doctor will ask questions about your medical history and medication use. Your doctor can refer you to a sleep medicine doctor, if necessary.

The sleep doctor may ask that you keep a sleep diary for two weeks. You'll note when and how long you sleep. You may also rate your how sleep is affecting your daily life using the Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Make sure to tell the sleep medicine doctor if you or a relative have ever had a sleep disorder.

Your doctor may order blood tests, including one to measure your iron level. In some cases, a sleep study may be done to determine that you do not have obstructive sleep apnea or another sleep disorder that can cause sleep disruption. This study is helpful but is not required to diagnose restless legs syndrome.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.