Medications For Restless Leg Syndrome


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There are many medications available to treat restless leg syndrome (RLS). It is important to follow the advice of the doctors as most of the medications used for RLS are very powerful.

For mild symptoms:

For mild symptoms taking a simple pain killer like ibuprofen may relive the sensation.

For moderate to severe symptoms:

Dopamine agonists:

This medication which is useful to treat Parkinsonism is also found to be useful in alleviating the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. However people with RLS have no greater increase of developing Parkinsonism compared to others.

Studies found that people with restless leg syndrome have low dopamine levels in the brain. Dopamine agonists work by increasing the low level of dopamine. The common drugs used here are Pramipexole, ropinirole and a combination of carbedopa and levodopa (sinemet).

As most of the dopamine agonists stay in the body only for a short time, they may need to be taken two or three times a day. Like other medications, dopamine agonists may also cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, light headedness, indigestion, fatigue and confusion.

Rebound phenomenon and augmentation

In some patients who are on treatment, symptoms may start appearing in the early morning (rebound phenomenon) or evening/daytime with spread to upper limb (augmentation). At this stage, another type of dopamine agonist called cabergoline may be useful as this drug works given once daily. But the down side of this medication is that it has severe side effects.

In some, Carbogoline may cause damage to heart valves. Therefore people taking carbogoline should undergo regular heart checkups. Also this medication is found to cause fibrosis (inflammation and thickening) of pericardium (a layer of tissue surrounding the heart), pleura (layer of tissue surrounding the lung) and peritoneum (layer surrounding the organs in the abdomen)

Due to severe side effects, in many countries, carbogoline is not licensed for the treatment of restless leg syndrome.

Anti epileptic drugs:

There is some evidence that increased activity of the nervous system may be related to the symptoms of restless leg syndrome. Medications used for epilepsy (carbamazepine or gabapentin) could inhibit the hyperactivity of the nervous system thereby reducing the symptoms in restless leg syndrome. They are particularly useful if the symptoms are not helped by dopamine agonists.

Opioids (narcotics):

In severe cases where the pain is intolerable, strong painkillers such as hydrocodone, Oxycodone or Propoxyphene might be helpful. But the main problem with these medications is that they can cause addiction. So these medications should be given only under specialist guidance.

Benzodiazepines:

This class of medications are used as muscle relaxants and for sleeplessness (insomnia). They are useful for those who have sleepless nights due to restless leg syndrome. Common medications in this category are clonazepam and zopiclone. But they don’t control the unpleasant sensation associated with restless leg syndrome. They may also cause daytime drowsiness.


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Source by Dr. N. Jawahar

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