Types of Doctors Who Treat Restless Legs Syndrome
If you think you might have restless legs syndrome (RLS), you may be wondering what type of doctor to see. The best place to start is with your primary care doctor. Other doctors you might see are a sleep medicine specialist and a neurologist.
RLS is a condition that causes unpleasant sensations in your legs and an irresistible urge to move them. You may have already noticed that moving your legs relieves the sensations and the urge. If you have these symptoms and they are worse at night or when resting, you may indeed have RLS—making it time to see a doctor.
Your primary care doctor can probably diagnose and treat RLS. There are no special or complicated procedures needed to make the diagnosis. Your doctor will decide if you have RLS by taking a medical history, doing a physical exam, and perhaps doing a few blood tests. Your primary care doctor may:
- Ask you to describe your symptoms
- Ask about your family history (RLS tends to run in families)
- Do a physical exam to look for signs of other conditions that might cause RLS-like symptoms
- Do some blood tests to look for anemia or low iron levels (these may have something to do with RLS)
To help make a diagnosis and to know how severe your RLS might be, your doctor may ask you to have a sleep study. To do this test, you go to a sleep lab and spend the night. Caregivers at the sleep lab will measure how well you sleep and how much movement you have during sleep. A doctor who is a sleep specialist will review the data and send a report to your primary care doctor.
A sleep study can be important because:
- Trouble falling asleep and staying asleep is a major part of RLS.
- Most people with RLS have involuntary leg movement during sleep, called periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS).
- PLMS can occur about every 30 seconds during sleep and can be measured during a sleep study.
If your primary care doctor has trouble managing your RLS, you may also need to see a neurologist. This is a doctor who specializes in nervous system disorders. Several nervous system disorders may be involved with RLS. Nervous system disorders a neurologist may help with include:
- Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s disease are more likely to have RLS.
- Peripheral nerve damage. This condition may contribute to RLS.
Neurologists are also familiar with many of the drugs used to treat RLS, including Parkinson’s disease drugs and antiseizure medication.