Ridding yourself of Restless Leg Syndrome (w/ Video)

Dec 03, 2010 By Keith Herrell

It makes no sense: You’ve had a long day, and you’re ready for a restful night’s sleep. But as you lie in bed, you experience an uncontrollable urge to move your legs—perhaps accompanied by unpleasant sensations such as tingling, crawling or even pain.

You may have (RLS), a neurological condition that is classified as a movement disorder, like Parkinson’s disease or essential tremor. There is no known single cause, but it is associated with dysfunction of the neurotransmitter known as dopamine at the spinal cord level.

The actual prevalence of RLS is not known, but according to the RLS Foundation, positive response rates for the question, "Do you have a creepy, crawly sensation in your legs at night when you attempt to sleep?” are between 3 and 15 percent.

"The vast majority of people don’t necessarily look for treatment,” says Alberto Espay, MD, a UC Health neurologist and member of the UC Neuroscience Institute. "They may feel like it’s all in their head, or decide that it’s something they’re willing to live with rather than see a doctor.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Alberto Espay, MD, discusses Restless Leg Syndrome.

"But RLS does respond to treatment in the overwhelming majority of people, enabling them to improve the quality of their sleep substantially—and with it, enjoy an improvement in their daytime functioning.”

A diagnosis of RLS usually involves four criteria, according to the RLS Foundation: an uncontrollable urge to move your legs, accompanied by uncomfortable sensations; the sensations begin or get worse during periods of rest; the symptoms get better when you move your legs; and the symptoms are worse in the evening.

RLS often runs in families, researchers say, and also may appear as the result of another condition such as pregnancy or end-stage renal disease with dialysis.

There are no lab tests to determine if you have RLS. If you visit a doctor, he or she will likely review your medical history, conduct a diagnostic interview and rule out any conditions that might be confused with RLS. In addition, you might be asked to stay overnight in a sleep lab.

Dopamine agonists, which mimic the effects of dopamine in the brain, are the first line of pharmacological treatment, Espay says. The two commercially available (by prescription) are pramipexole (brand name Mirapex) and ropinirole (brand name Requip).

Other drugs, such as those used to treat nerve disorders, are prescribed if dopamine agonists are ineffective or have intolerable side effects, Espay says. Also, gabapentin, benzodiazepines such as clonazepam or, if needed, opioids such as oxycodone and propoxyphene—medications typically associated with the treatment of pain—can be helpful for those who are unable to benefit from dopamine agonists.

"Treatment for RLS typically relies on a low dose of medication taken by pill at bedtime, and people may not ever need an adjustment,” Espay says. "So it’s really a good idea to consider visiting a doctor if you have any kind of symptoms that are taking you away from a good night’s sleep.”

Explore further: Reported link between early life exposure to paracetamol and asthma 'overstated'

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Race is strong predictor for restless legs syndrome

Nov 02, 2009

New research shows that Caucasian women may suffer from restless legs syndrome (RLS), a sleep disorder characterized by the strong urge to move the legs, up to four times more than African-American women. The study, presented ...

Recommended for you

Ebola isolation at US base 'pretty much vacation'

7 hours ago

With plenty of flat screen TVs, game nights and even an outdoor fire pit, life in isolation for members of the U.S. military who have returned from the Ebola mission in West Africa can look a lot like summer camp.

Chinese-built Ebola center dedicated in Liberia

11 hours ago

China, one of the first countries to send aid to battle Ebola in West Africa, ramped up the assistance significantly Tuesday by opening a 100-bed treatment center in Liberia as rows of uniformed Chinese army ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.