Current RLS Treatments

Current Treatments for RLS

Although the cause of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is not yet known, the following factors or conditions appear to be related.

  • People with low iron levels or anemia may be prone to developing RLS. Once iron levels or anemia is corrected, patients may see a reduction in symptoms.
  • Chronic diseases such as kidney failure, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and peripheral neuropathy are associated with RLS. Treating the underlying condition often provides relief from RLS symptoms.
  • Some pregnant women experience RLS, especially in their last trimester. For most of these women, symptoms usually disappear within 4 weeks after delivery.
  • Certain medications-such as antinausea drugs (prochlorperazine or metoclopramide), antiseizure drugs (phenytoin or droperidol), antipsychotic drugs (haloperidol or phenothiazine derivatives), and some cold and allergy medications-may aggravate symptoms.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco appear to aggravate or trigger symptoms in some patients. Studies have shown that a reduction or complete elimination of such substances may relieve symptoms, although it remains unclear whether the elimination of such substances can prevent RLS symptoms from occurring at all.

Researchers do not know if the above factors actually cause RLS.

The most promising course of action in treating RLS is by finding and treating any possible underlying disorder. Often, treating the associated medical condition will alleviate many symptoms. For patients with idiopathic RLS, treatment is directed toward relieving symptoms.

For those with mild to moderate symptoms, prevention is key and certain lifestyle changes and activities may reduce or eliminate symptoms. Decreased use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may provide some relief. Some individuals may want to take supplements to correct deficiencies in iron, folate, and magnesium.

Studies also have shown that maintaining a regular sleep pattern can reduce symptoms. Some individuals, finding that RLS symptoms are minimized in the early morning, change their sleep patterns.

Others have found that a program of regular moderate exercise helps them sleep better; on the other hand, excessive exercise has been reported by some patients to aggravate RLS symptoms.

Taking a hot bath, massaging the legs, or using a heating pad or ice pack can help relieve symptoms in some patients. Although many patients find some relief with such measures, rarely do these efforts completely eliminate symptoms.

There are a variety of medications to treat RLS including the following;

  • Requip (ropinirole hydrochloride)
  • dopaminergic agents
  • benzodiazepines (CNS depressants)
  • opioids
  • anticonvulsants
  • levodopa plus carbidopa
  • pergolide mesylate
  • pramipexole

Unfortunately, no one drug is effective for everyone with RLS. What may be helpful to one individual may actually worsen symptoms for another. In addition, medications taken regularly can lose their effect, making it necessary to change medications periodically.