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RLS is characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move to gain relief.  Most people with RLS have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.

Studies have shown that many patients with RLS may also experience symptoms during the day. Daytime symptoms of RLS, such as inability to sit still and involuntary leg jerks, are increasingly recognized. RLS can result in exhaustion and daytime fatigue, and may affect daily activities.  Patients with moderate-to-severe RLS may require long-term treatment.

While the underlying cause of RLS is not currently fully understood, it is thought to involve central dopamine systems.  Recent neuroimaging data suggest that RLS patients may carry an abnormality in dopamine transport.