Medication and Restless Legs Syndrome
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Easing restless leg syndrome is possible. It all depends on the treatment. Watch this to learn about medications and restless leg syndrome.
Transcript: Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition affecting 12 million Americans, and presently has...
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological condition affecting 12 million Americans, and presently has no cure. However, the deep-seated muscle aches and twinges which accompany the condition may be eased with a variety of medications. Because some cases of RLS are actually secondary to an underlying medical condition, most doctors will focus on treating that condition first. Some of the conditions which physicians treat prior to addressing RLS symptoms directly include kidney disease, diabetes, Parkinson's disease, and iron-deficiency anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia, which is characterized by low levels of iron in the blood, is perhaps the most common underlying condition which can lead to restless legs. A person with this deficiency may be prescribed iron supplements, such as ferrous sulfate. Iron is often taken in conjunction with Vitamin C to help the body absorb this essential element. In many RLS patients, however, the reason for the condition is not clear. When this is the case, medication to directly treat the symptoms may be prescribed.Until fairly recently, there were no prescription drugs available to specifically treat restless legs syndrome. However, in 2005, the FDA approved a medication called ropinirole, which is sold under the brand name Requip, to treat this condition. Requip, which was originally approved to treat Parkinson's disease, works by increasing levels of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. The additional dopamine calms muscle contraction, thus reducing motion in the legs. Requip is a member of the dopamine-agonist class of drugs. Other members of this family include Mirapex, Pergolide, and Permex, all brand names for the generic pramipexole. While only Requip is approved specifically to treat RLS, these other dopamine agonists, which were developed for Parkinson's disease, may also be prescribed "off-label" to ease leg symptoms. Neurontin, generally used to relieve pain caused by damage to the nervous system, has also been found to ease the discomfort of severe muscle spasms in people with RLS. People who have painful daytime symptoms may find relief from Neurontin, which was originally developed as an anti-seizure medication. Another class of medications, the benzodiazepines, are used to help patients sleep through their symptoms, rather than directly relieving pain. Commonly prescribed medications in this class include clonazepam, or Klonopin, and alprazolam, or Xanax. It's important to note that the benzodiazepines cause daytime drowsiness and loss of short-term memory. On rare occasions, pain-relievers like oxycodone and hydrocodone may be prescribed to relieve severe symptoms of RLS. Because this class of drugs can be addictive, it is often a last resort option. Even medications which are successful in treating RLS may eventually become ineffective as symptoms continue or increase. This process is known as augmentation. When augmentation occurs, your doctor may decide to switch your prescription, or perhaps adjust your dose accordingly. It's important to remember that each of these medications is available by prescription only, and should be used under the direct care of a doctor! Talk to your physician about the best medication for YOUR symptoms.More »
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Curious as to whether or not there is a connection between restless leg syndrome and fibromyalgia? Watch this to find out.
Last Modified: 2012-06-21 | Tags »
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Many people believe that restless legs syndrome is a made-up condition. But RLs is a real disease with very real symptoms. Watch this video to get a better understanding of restless legs syndrome.
Transcript: Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is quite common, affecting 12 million Americans. RLS is generally characterized...
Restless legs syndrome, or RLS, is quite common, affecting 12 million Americans. RLS is generally characterized by unpleasant sensations in the muscles of the lower legs following periods of inactivity. The condition gets its name from the agitated pacing and leg jiggling of sufferers. RLS was first described in 1672 by the English physician Sir Thomas Willis. He wrote about people who experienced "leapings and contractions" of the legs. According to Sir Willis, "these people are no more able to sleep than if they were in a place of the greatest torture." Although centuries have passed since the time of these observations, people who experience RLS often DO feel tortured. The unpleasant sensations of restless legs have been described as a creeping and crawling, or a deep-seated burning in the muscles. RLS is unique, in that people suffering from it can often ease their discomfort, but only by engaging in constant movement. When movement ceases, so does reliefThe symptoms of RLS range from mildly annoying to incredibly painful. Some sufferers experience only occasional bouts of discomfort, while in severe cases, patients can have symptoms daily. Despite this range of symptom severity, however, the patterns of RLS are fairly predictable. Generally, discomfort is worse at night, particularly during the onset of sleep. Other periods of inactivity that may trigger restless legs include traveling in a car or plane, sitting in a movie-theater, or being immobilized in a cast. Four out of five people with RLS find that their symptoms are exacerbated by another condition called periodic limb movements of sleep, or PLMS. PLMS is characterized by involuntarily flexing and extending the legs while sleeping, without having any knowledge of doing so. The combination of RLS and PLMS can severely disrupt sleep and prevent sufferers from getting the required seven to nine hours nightly. For this reason, RLS is often referred to as a sleep disorder. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem, leading to 56,000 car crashes each year in the United States alone! It can also result in severe reduction in a person's ability to concentrate and focus, leading to impaired performance at work or at school. In addition, inadequate restful sleep can intensify the symptoms of other diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. That's bad news, because these conditions often occur in conjunction with RLS! There is currently no cure for RLS. However, sufferers may find relief from lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation or a change in sleep patterns, and with time-honored home remedies, like hot baths. In addition, recently developed medication options, like Requip, may help severe sufferers find a reprieve. Some researchers theorize that restless legs syndrome affects ten percent of the population! If you feel that you may be among them, or have concerns about RLS, please make an appointment to speak with your doctor.More »
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What causes restless leg syndrome? No exact cause has been found yet, but studies link imbalanced levels of neurotransmitters to this condition. Watch here to learn.
Transcript: Restless legs syndrome is an incurable condition characterized by discomfort in the muscles of the legs,...
Restless legs syndrome is an incurable condition characterized by discomfort in the muscles of the legs, generally leading to the uncontrollable urge to move around for relief. RLS affects up to 12 million people in the United States-but what causes this sensation of restlessness? No one is certain of the exact cause of RLS, but researchers theorize that the condition may be due to an imbalance of the neurotransmitter dopamine. A versatile brain chemical, dopamine sends messages to the body, which modulate muscle activity. It is theorized that RLS may run in families. In fact, almost 50 percent of people with restless legs report having a family member with the same condition. Although most people who suffer from RLS are middle-aged or older, when a child develops the condition, he or she is more likely to have a family member with restless legs. Despite a possible hereditary connection, however, most cases of RLS have no known cause. This is known as primary, or idiopathic, RLS. In secondary RLS, the other form of this disease, the symptoms are due to another, underlying medical condition, and usually disappear when that problem is treated. One of the most common causes of secondary RLS is iron-deficiency anemia, which is characterized by low levels of hemoglobin in the blood. Hemoglobin is the protein that carries oxygen and makes blood appear red. Kidney disease and kidney failure cause secondary RLS for the same reason: When the kidney fails to function properly, iron stores in the blood decrease, and restless legs can result. Damage to the nerves of the arms and the legs is known as peripheral neuropathy, and is another source of secondary RLS. Peripheral neuropathy is seen in a variety of diseases, including diabetes, HIV infection, and alcoholism. Another recognized cause of RLS is pregnancy. Up to 40 percent of pregnant women experience restless legs prior to giving birth. Certain prescription medications can actually cause RLS, including antidepressants like paroxetine, Paxil, and anticonvulsants such as Dilantin or pheyntoin. Beta-blockers like propranolol, and H2 blockers like Zantac, have also been shown to contribute to the problem. In other cases, alcohol, caffeine, or cigarette smoking can exacerbate or even cause, the symptoms of RLS. But whether RLS is idiopathic or secondary, its uncomfortable symptoms can generally be treated with both lifestyle changes and medications. Because the debilitating symptoms of this condition are treatable, it's important to see your doctor if you have concerns about restless legs syndrome!More »
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How do doctors arrive at a Restless Legs Syndrome diagnosis when some people don't think it exists? Get details on this very real condition in this video!
Transcript: There is currently no definitive diagnostic test for restless legs syndrome. For this reason, a patient's...
There is currently no definitive diagnostic test for restless legs syndrome. For this reason, a patient's description of his or her symptoms is vitally important to a correct diagnosis of the condition. Determining the cause of nighttime restlessness begins with a detailed medical history. This is important because almost 50 percent of restless legs sufferers have a family member with the condition. Next, the patient is questioned in detail about all of his or her symptoms, which are then categorized according to the four diagnostic criteria of RLS, set forth by the Restless Legs Syndrome Study Group. The first marker symptom is the presence of unpleasant tingling, aching, itching, or "crawling", sensations felt deep within the legs. The second symptom recognized by the RLS study group is motor restlessness, characterized by pacing, leg rubbing, and tossing and turning in bed. Motor restlessness may also manifest as short, involuntary bursts of leg movement which usually occur when a patient is lying down. The third diagnostic criterion is that the symptoms are worse when the sufferer is at rest, but are at least partially relieved by bouts of activity. And the final marker for diagnosing RLS is symptoms which worsen at night, and are distinctly more painful between 10 pm and 2 am. A patient whose symptoms fit these criteria is considered to have restless legs syndrome. However, because RLS can stem from an underlying medical condition, a doctor may wish to conduct more tests to determine the root cause of restless legs. A follow-up blood test can reveal low iron levels, kidney disease, and diabetes, all of which have been linked to the condition. If a doctor suspects that a condition called neuropathy may be an underlying cause of RLS, a needle electromyography study, or EMG, may be conducted. In this test, small needles are inserted into the muscles to assess nerve activity. Occasionally, a doctor may follow up with a polysomnographic, or sleep, test. During polysomnography, a patient's brain waves, heartbeat, breathing, and bodily movements are monitored overnight. This test is especially important to detect the presence of an involuntary condition known as periodic limb movements of sleep, which occurs in 4 out of 5 RLS patients and makes a restful night even more elusive. A polysomnography may also be necessary for children who have trouble describing their symptoms accurately, and for people who do not respond to standard RLS treatments. If the end result of these tests is a diagnosis with restless legs syndrome, you are not alone! At least 12 million Americans have RLS, and researchers learn more about this common condition every day.More »
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Few tweaks in our daily routines can go a long way in helping us overcome twitchy legs. Watch this video to learn about behavioral changes and restless legs syndrome.
Transcript: The "creepy, crawly" feeling that is characteristic of restless legs syndrome can range from an occasional...
The "creepy, crawly" feeling that is characteristic of restless legs syndrome can range from an occasional occurrence to nightly upset. For people in the former category, a doctor may start by recommending lifestyle changes which can help abate symptoms. Behavioral modifications can curb the discomfort caused by restless legs. A good place to start is by improving sleep hygiene, which is a series of guidelines that should make falling asleep as easy as possible. Sleep hygiene involves keeping the bedroom at a cool, comfortable temperature, and ensuring that no outside noise enters the room. Maintaining a regular schedule, which means going to bed at the same time every night and rising at the same time every morning, is another vital part of sleep hygiene. (And yes, even on the weekends!) When adjusting their sleep schedule to a more regular pattern, some restless leg sufferers may find that going to bed later improves sleep, as symptoms do tend to subside as the night wears on. Finally, it's important to reserve the bedroom as a place that is ONLY used for sleep and sex. That means no reading, television, or restless pacing allowed in the bedroom! Caffeine is commonly found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and many over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers, appetite suppressants, and cold remedies. In addition, both alcohol and nicotine have been shown to aggravate some cases of RLS, and cutting back on smoking and drinking, particularly close to bedtime, may help. Daily exercise can help ease RLS symptoms, as well. Some people with the condition find that exercising a few hours before bedtime relieves discomfort later. Other treatments for RLS are more "in the moment." Although some of them may seem obvious, patients with more mild cases of restless legs may find them helpful. For example, over-the-counter pain relievers containing ibuprofen may help ease twitching and aches. In addition, soaking in a hot bath, or administering gentle self-massage, have both been shown to moderately ease the ache of RLS. Other patients with RLS find that learning relaxation techniques, such as yoga, can help curb nightly leg movement. If these basic behavior modifications don't ease the symptoms of RLS, a doctor can prescribe medication to relieve discomfort. Restless legs syndrome can be a huge cause of lost sleep, but there IS help for treating many of its symptoms! If you're concerned about RLS, please make an appointment to speak with your doctor.More »
Last Modified: 2014-01-17 | Tags »
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