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Misdiagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome

Misdiagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome

Symptoms of restless legs syndrome can be easily overlooked by people who have a mild case, resulting in a delayed or missed diagnosis. Symptoms tend to progress and worsen as a person gets older, so an early diagnosis can be helpful in helping a person to learn to prevent and minimize symptoms before they interferes significantly with sleep and their life.

If a person experiences symptoms of restless legs syndrome, it is important to get a full medical evaluation and work-up to rule out potentially serious conditions that often accompany it. These include diabetes, Parkinson's disease, anemia, iron deficiency, and peripheral neuropathy.

In addition, restless legs syndrome may also be confused with periodic limb movements of sleep (PLMS), a similar condition, which may also accompany restless legs syndrome....more about Restless Legs Syndrome »

Alternative diagnoses list for Restless Legs Syndrome:

For a diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome, the following list of conditions have been mentioned in sources as possible alternative diagnoses to consider during the diagnostic process for Restless Legs Syndrome:

Diseases for which Restless Legs Syndrome may be an alternative diagnosis

The other diseases for which Restless Legs Syndrome is listed as a possible alternative diagnosis in their lists include:

Restless Legs Syndrome: Hidden Causes Misdiagnosed?

Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome may include these medical conditions:

Rare Types of Restless Legs Syndrome:

Restless Legs Syndrome: Medical Mistakes

Related medical mistakes may include:

Restless Legs Syndrome: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed conditions in related areas may include:

Common Misdiagnoses and Restless Legs Syndrome

RLS sleep disorder causing night-time leg sensations often misdiagnosed: A common but relatively unknown sleep-related disorder called Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is often misdiagnosed. The typical symptoms are night-time tingling, crawling, or burning sensations in the legs, with the irresistable urge to move the legs. This need for leg movement leads to tossing and turning, or getting up out of bed, all of which interferes with the ability to fall asleep. The sufferer then has the typical symptoms of sleep deprivation during the day: fatigue, tiredness, morning headaches, irritability, poor concentration and so on. This condition is sometimes misdiagnosed as other conditions such as ADHD, sleep disorders, other causes of insomnia, or other causes of leg tingling. Many patients also suffer from a related disorder called Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), which causes leg spasms or other jerky movements. See introduction to RLS or introduction to PLMD.

Leg cramps at night a classic sign: The symptom of having leg muscle cramps, particularly at night, is a classic sign of undiagnosed diabetes. However, there are also various other causes. See causes of leg cramps or misdiagnosis of diabetes.

Vitamin B12 deficiency under-diagnosed: The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is a possible misdiagnosis of various conditions, such as multiple sclerosis (see symptoms of multiple sclerosis). See symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency or misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis.

Failure To Diagnose Restless Legs Syndrome

Failure to diagnose Restless Legs Syndrome may be associated with the following:

  • Restless legs syndrome is often undiagnosed because many people find the symptoms don't bother them enough to seek medical advice. Often, patients don't even realise that it is a distinct condition which may be treatable in some cases. Patients also hesitate to bring up their symptoms for the fear of them appearing trivial. Other patients are unsure of how to describe their sensations and therefore do not discuss them with their doctor

Notes On Hidden Causes Of Restless Legs Syndrome

The following may be hidden causes of Restless Legs Syndrome:

  • Primary restless leg syndrome has no definable cause though it may be inherited in a familial pattern in some cases
  • Fatigue and stress may worsen restless leg syndrome symptoms
  • Possible underlying causes of secondary restless leg syndrome includes: iron deficiency, haemodialysis for end-stage kidney disease, peripheral neuropathy, magnesium deficiency, folate deficiency, alcoholism, pregnancy, caffeine consumption, rheumatoid arthritis, uremia, vitamin B12 deficiency, fibromyalgia, spinocerebellar ataxia, spinal nerve damage, acute intermittent porphyria, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (type 2), lumbosacral radiculopathy, Isaac's syndrome
  • Huntington's chorea, Lyme disease, diabetes mellitus, amyloidosis and polyneuropathy
  • Low potassium or calcium levels may also cause RLS
  • Certain medication may also be underlying causes of restless leg syndrome e.g. Zantac and other H2 histamine blockers and antidepressants such as Elavil

Notes On Wrong Diagnosis Of Restless Legs Syndrome

Wrong diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome may be associated with the following:

  • Restless leg syndrome may be misdiagnosed as a neurological disorder or even ADHD
  • Occasionally nocturnal seizures may be misdiagnosed as a sleep disorder and vice versa. Extreme lack of sleep can cause seizures and conversely, night-time seizures can cause tiredness during the day which may lead to a sleep disorder misdiagnosis
  • Restless leg syndrome may co-exist with other sleep disorders such as sleep apnea which can make diagnosis more difficult
  • Restless leg syndrome may be misdiagnosed as nocturnal leg cramps in some patients as they may both involve unusual or painful sensations in the legs
  • Periodic limb movement disorder causes symptoms similar to RLS but the symptoms only occur while the patient is sleeping. RLS patients may be misdiagnosed with periodic limb movement disorder or vice versa

Complications Of Misdiagnosis Of Restless Legs Syndrome

The following may be complications of misdiagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome:

  • Sleep problems caused by restless leg syndrome may be misdiagnosed as some other sleep disorder
  • The periodic leg movements associated with restless leg syndrome is a symptom common to other disorders such as chorea, Parkinson disease, Parkinson-plus syndromes, seizures, epilepsy, uremic encephalopathy, uremic neuropathy, frontal lobe epilepsy, narcolepsy and early myoclonic encephalopathy
  • Leg complaints by children suffering from RLS is often misdiagnosed as growing pains

General Misdiagnosis Articles

Read these general articles with an overview of misdiagnosis issues.

About misdiagnosis:

When checking for a misdiagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome or confirming a diagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome, it is useful to consider what other medical conditions might be possible misdiagnoses or other alternative conditions relevant to diagnosis. These alternate diagnoses of Restless Legs Syndrome may already have been considered by your doctor or may need to be considered as possible alternative diagnoses or candidates for misdiagnosis of Restless Legs Syndrome. For a general overview of misdiagnosis issues for all diseases, see Overview of Misdiagnosis.


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