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Restless legs syndrome (RLS)
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Restless legs syndrome (RLS)

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BRAIN & NERVOUS SYSTEM

Sleep

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition in which your legs feel extremely uncomfortable while you're sitting or lying down. The condition usually makes you feel like getting up and moving around. In doing so, the unpleasant feeling goes away.

The disorder affects both sexes, can begin at any age and may worsen as you get older. Restless legs syndrome can disrupt sleep - leading to daytime drowsiness - and make traveling difficult.

A number of simple self-care steps and lifestyle changes may benefit you. Medications also help many people with restless legs syndrome.

Treatment

Sometimes, treating an underlying condition such as iron deficiency or peripheral neuropathy greatly relieves symptoms of RLS. Correcting the iron deficiency may involve taking iron supplements. However, take iron supplements only under medical supervision and after your doctor has checked your blood iron level first.

If you have restless legs syndrome without any associated condition, treatment focuses on lifestyle changes and medications. Several prescription medications, most of which were developed to treat other diseases, are available to reduce the restlessness in your legs. These include:

  • Medications for Parkinson's disease. These medications reduce the amount of motion in your legs by affecting the level of the chemical messenger dopamine in your brain. They include pramipexole (Mirapex), pergolide (Permax), ropinirole (Requip), and a combination of carbidopa and levodopa (Sinemet). However, people with RLS are at no greater risk of developing Parkinson's disease than are those without it.

  • Opioids. Narcotic medications can relieve mild to severe symptoms, but they may be addicting if used in too high doses. Some examples include codeine, the combination medicine oxycodone and acetaminophen (Percocet, Roxicet), and the combination medicine hydrocodone and acetaminophen (Vicodin, Duocet).

  • Muscle relaxants and sleep medications. This class of medications, known as benzodiazepines, helps you sleep better at night. But these medications don't eliminate the leg sensations, and they may cause daytime drowsiness. Commonly used sedatives for RLS include clonazepam (Klonopin), temazepam (Restoril, Razapam) and triazolam (Halcion).

  • Medications for epilepsy. Certain epilepsy medications, such as gabapentin (Neurontin), may work well for some people with RLS.

It may take several trials for you and your doctor to find the right medication and dosage for you. A combination of medications may work best.

One caveat with drugs to treat RLS is that sometimes a medication that has worked for you for a while to relieve symptoms becomes ineffective. Or you notice your symptoms returning earlier in the day. For example, if you have been taking your medication at 8 p.m., your symptoms of RLS may start occurring at 6 p.m. This is called augmentation. Your doctor may substitute another medication to combat the problem.

Most of the drugs prescribed to treat RLS aren't recommended for pregnant women. Instead, your doctor may recommend self-care techniques to relieve symptoms. However, if the sensations are particularly bothersome during your last trimester, your doctor may OK the use of pain relievers.

Some medications may worsen symptoms of RLS. These include antinausea drugs, calcium channel blockers (which are used to treat heart conditions) and most antidepressants. Your doctor may recommend that you avoid these medications. However, should you need to take them, restless legs can still be controlled by adding medications that control the condition.

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
In no event will The DrEddyclinic.com be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.

 


 



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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:03 AM