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Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Treatments for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)

Treatments for restless leg syndrome (RLS) concentrate on relieving symptoms and restoring normal sleep patterns. In some cases, treating a related condition such as diabetes or peripheral neuropathy can control symptoms.   

Treatment options for mild RLS include managing lifestyle factors that may not completely eliminate symptoms, but can provide relief. Among these are decreasing or eliminating caffeine, alcohol and cigarettes; and using nutritional supplements such as iron, magnesium and folate. Oral iron is indicated when ferritin levels are below 75 microg/L.  Other choices include maintaining a regular sleep schedule, moderate exercise, hot baths and use of heating pads and ice packs, and massage. To assure the best outcome, people should consult with their neurologist prior to changing diet or beginning an exercise program.  

Medications provide effective treatment options for restless leg syndrome for some people. Drugs commonly prescribed include agents to increase dopamine levels. New drugs that act on dopamine receptors include ropinirole and pramipexole. Another drug is rotigotine, which is given as transcutaneous patch. Others are not specifically designed for RLS, but help relieve symptoms. Benzodiazeprines treat anxiety, insomnia and muscle spasms, and help induce sleep. Opioids such as hyrodocone may help reduce pain. Anticonvulsants such as pregabalin decrease the unpleasant sensations of RLS in close to two thirds of patients. Doctors may prescribe several medications to determine the one that is most effective for an individual, and carefully monitor results to prevent potentially serious side effects and assure the best outcome.  

Deep brain stimulation, is currently investigated as a surgical treatment option for restless leg syndrome. In the procedure, the neurosurgeon uses a neurostimulator to deliver very small electrical impulses to areas of the brain that control movement. As with all surgeries, the doctor will help the patient carefully weigh benefits and risk factors compared to other treatments for RLS.

Locations for Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)