Sleep and Weight Loss

Secondary RLS: Uncovering the Intricate Links to Underlying Causes

Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a distinct subtype of RLS that develops as a result of underlying medical conditions, medications, or other external factors. Unlike primary RLS, which has no known cause, secondary RLS can often be traced back to specific triggers or conditions. In this guide, we’ll explore Secondary RLS, its unique characteristics, common causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and approaches to managing this complex condition.

Understanding Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

1. Linked to Underlying Causes:

  • Secondary RLS is characterized by RLS symptoms that arise as a consequence of underlying medical conditions or external factors.

2. Identifiable Triggers:

  • Unlike primary RLS, the development of secondary RLS can be attributed to specific triggers, making it essential to address the underlying cause.

3. Management of the Underlying Cause:

  • Effectively managing secondary RLS often requires addressing the primary condition or discontinuing medications that may be contributing to the symptoms.

Common Causes of Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome

1. Iron Deficiency:

  • Low iron levels in the body, a condition known as iron-deficiency anemia, can lead to the development of secondary RLS.

2. Pregnancy:

  • Some women experience RLS during pregnancy, which is often attributed to hormonal changes and iron deficiency.

3. Chronic Medical Conditions:

  • Certain chronic medical conditions, such as kidney disease, diabetes, and peripheral neuropathy, can be associated with secondary RLS.

4. Medications:

  • Certain medications, including antipsychotics, antidepressants, and antinausea drugs, can trigger or worsen RLS symptoms.

5. Peripheral Neuropathy:

  • Nerve damage or peripheral neuropathy can lead to secondary RLS, as it disrupts normal nerve signaling in the legs.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome

1. Symptoms Consistent with RLS:

  • Secondary RLS manifests with symptoms similar to primary RLS, including uncomfortable leg sensations and an urge to move the legs to relieve discomfort.

2. Identification of Underlying Cause:

  • Diagnosing secondary RLS involves identifying and addressing the underlying condition or trigger responsible for the symptoms.

3. Medical Evaluation:

  • A healthcare provider or sleep specialist will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine the root cause of RLS symptoms.

Management and Treatment

1. Treatment of Underlying Condition:

  • The primary approach to managing secondary RLS is treating the underlying medical condition or discontinuing medications that contribute to RLS symptoms.

2. Iron Supplementation:

  • For cases related to iron deficiency, iron supplementation may be recommended under medical guidance.

3. Medication Management:

  • Adjusting or discontinuing medications known to exacerbate RLS symptoms can help alleviate discomfort.

4. Symptom Relief:

  • In some instances, healthcare providers may prescribe medications specifically for RLS symptom relief, such as dopamine agonists or anticonvulsants.

5. Lifestyle Adjustments:

  • Adopting healthy sleep habits and stress-reduction techniques can complement treatment and enhance symptom management.


Secondary Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a complex condition that arises as a result of underlying causes, such as iron deficiency, chronic medical conditions, or medications. Effective management requires identifying and addressing the primary condition or trigger responsible for RLS symptoms. By collaborating with healthcare providers or sleep specialists and taking targeted steps to manage the underlying cause, individuals with secondary RLS can find relief and improve their overall quality of life.

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