Dr. Barbara Huggins

Restless Legs Syndrome

February 8, 2007

Restless Legs Syndrome -  February 8, 2007It's been around for years. Though it affects up to 25% of the population and can significantly disrupt sleep, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. No, it's not sleep apnea. It's restless legs syndrome. Dr. Mom has more.

What is restless legs syndrome?
Approximately 10% of the population is affected by restless legs syndrome (RLS), a neurological disorder characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs usually in the evening or late at night when at rest. The unpleasant or painful sensations are described as burning, creeping, tugging, or like insects crawling inside the legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them for relief. The sensations go away when one gets up and moves around.

Signs and Symptoms

The cause of RLS is unknown. However, recent studies at Johns Hopkins and Pennsylvania State Colleges have found evidence for brain iron deficiency as a cause for primary RLS. Stress tends to worsen the symptoms of RLS. Pregnancy or hormonal changes may temporarily worsen RLS signs and symptoms.

RLS sometimes accompanies other conditions such as:

Available Treatment

Your primary care physician may:
To help relieve symptoms at home you may try:

In 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved ropinirole specifically for the treatment of moderate to severe RLS. However, a recent article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine by Irene Richard, MD, and Roger Kurlan, MD, warns primary care physicians that long-term success cannot be expected simply by prescribing ropinirole, which works by activating dopamine receptors in the brain. If the drug is taken too long, it can actually backfire, making the symptoms worsen. Instead, the team recommends that physicians may need to rotate some patients through different types of medications.

Do you have restless legs syndrome:

If you answered "yes" to most of these questions, talk with your primary care physician.

Helpful websites:

NOTICE: Protected health information is subject to electronic disclosure.