The cause of restless legs syndrome has not been established, however it is possible that an imbalance in the neurotransmitter dopamine (which helps to control muscle movement) could contribute to the disorder.
Other contributing factors may include:
- Genetics: A family history of restless legs syndrome is present in as many as 50% of cases.
- Iron deficiency.
- Pregnancy: Restless legs syndrome often develops in the last trimester of pregnancy, resolving approximately a month after the baby is born. Women who already have restless legs syndrome may experience a worsening of their symptoms during pregnancy.
Restless legs syndrome is often present in patients with peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage affecting the hands and feet), kidney failure (as a consequence of iron deficiency), and Parkinson’s disease.
Symptoms may be aggravated by the use of alcohol, tobacco, and certain medications (including some of those used to treat digestion problems, depression, nausea and high blood pressure). Stress may also exacerbate the problems.