Restless leg syndrome, overactive bladder syndrome, and restless genital syndrome can appear alongside each other. They may share links with neurological disorders or damage to the signals between the brain and relevant areas of the body.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is also known as Willis-Ekbom disease. It is a neurological disorder that causes a person to feel uncomfortable sensations in the legs and a persistent and often uncontrollable urge to move them.

Overactive bladder syndrome (OAB) is the name for a group of symptoms relating to a person’s bladder control.

Restless genital syndrome (RGS) is when a person experiences regular, excessive sensations of arousal in the genital and clitoral areas but does not feel the mental side of sexual desire.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke suggests that up to 10% of Americans experience RLS. The American Urology Association’s Urology Care Foundation indicates that up to 30% of men and 40% of women in the United States experience OAB symptoms.

In this article, we look at the overlap between these three conditions and their available treatment options.

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For some people, RLS may be mild, and they may think that the symptoms occur due to restlessness or stress. For others, the symptoms of this condition may be more severe and can interfere with their day-to-day activities.

Symptoms of RLS are often worse during the evening and most severe at night, and they can disrupt sleep. This means that some people with RLS may experience tiredness during the day.

The main symptom of this condition is an overwhelming urge to move the legs. A person may resolve this by moving their legs, but the sensation usually returns when the movement stops.

Sensations that an individual with RLS may experience include:

Symptoms of an overactive bladder can occur at any time. They may also happen overnight, causing sleep disturbances.

Symptoms of OAB may include:

Frequently disturbed sleep can lead to people feeling more tired during the day, which can cause a number of health issues, both physical and mental. A person who experiences constant tiredness and sleep deprivation is likely to experience lower moods.

Research has linked the symptoms of RGS to both RLS and OAB. As the condition is uncommon, much of the research into it has been in the form of case reports.

Some studies in the above research suggest that doctors should consider a diagnosis of RGS if a person has either RLS or OAB alongside meeting the criteria for genital arousal disorder.

Currently, researchers are unsure about what causes RGS, but some theories include the following:

  • vascular disease
  • OAB
  • a trapped nerve in the pelvis
  • stress
  • taking certain medications, such as lamotrigine

There may be a connection between RLS, OAB, and RGS. The conditions may occur alongside one another, and health experts believe they have links to dopamine in some cases.

People who experience RLS, OAB, or RGS may have a dysfunction in the part of the brain that controls movement. This section of the brain — the basal ganglia — uses dopamine, allowing people to create smooth movements. If there is dysfunction of this part of the brain, it can cause involuntary movements.

Managing RLS, OAB, and RGS involves a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.

Some lifestyle changes that can help relieve the symptoms of each of the conditions include:

  • limiting alcohol
  • quitting smoking
  • exercising regularly throughout the day
  • practicing good sleep hygiene
  • avoiding any foods that may trigger symptoms — this may vary depending on the individual
  • reviewing any medications with healthcare providers to ensure they are not contributing to symptoms


Two methods can help manage symptoms of RLS.

  • Medical devices: The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain devices, such as a foot wrap and a vibration pad, to help relieve RLS symptoms.
  • Medications: Prescription medications, such as anti-seizure drugs, opioids, or dopaminergic agents, may also provide relief.


There are three ways to relieve symptoms of OAB.

  • Kegels: Pelvic floor exercises, also known as Kegels, can help strengthen the pelvic floor and prevent a person from unintentionally leaking urine.
  • Botox: In some cases, Botox may be suitable to treat OAB. This relaxes the muscles of the bladder wall, reduces the urge to urinate, and eases incontinence associated with the bladder muscles squeezing too much.
  • Medications: If lifestyle changes are ineffective for relieving symptoms of OAB, people may require prescription drugs. Antimuscarinics and beta-3 agonists are two types of medication that can prevent the bladder from squeezing before it is full.


Doctors can use medications to treat RGS. Pramipexole, a type of dopaminergic agent, may be effective in treating this condition.

There is currently no cure for RLS, OAB, or RGS, but lifestyle changes, in combination with medications, can help manage the symptoms of these conditions. The conditions are not life threatening and are often resolvable if it is possible to identify and address the underlying cause.

Although people living with these conditions may live with them long term, there are occasions where a person’s symptoms may disappear for days, weeks, months, or even years.

If someone has a diagnosis of RLS, OAB, or RGS, it does not mean that they will develop another neurological condition such as Parkinson’s disease. However, symptoms may worsen over time as someone ages and may get worse faster in people with associated medical conditions.

Although they do not always present together, there may be a link between the underlying causes of RLS, OAB, and RGS. There is no cure for the conditions, but medication and lifestyle changes can manage the symptoms.