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: Doctors' checklist could help decrease length of COPD patients' hospital stay

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 will return', veteran scientist warns

9 minutes ago

Congolese expert Jean-Jacques Muyembe may be little known to the public, but he has been one of the world's top Ebola investigators since the first epidemic erupted in central Africa in 1976.

Score IDs patients with upper extremity DVT at low risk

15 hours ago

(HealthDay)—For patients with upper-extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT), six easily available factors can be used to create a score that identifies those at low risk of adverse events during the first ...

Combined drug treatment combats kidney disease

May 29, 2015

A recent discovery by drug researchers whereby coupling specific cell membrane receptors has altered kidney cell function has triggered a re-think of how to treat chronic kidney disease (CKD) more effectively.

Active substance targeting dreaded hospital germs

May 29, 2015

In the German Center for Infection Research (DZIF), scientists have conducted clinical studies on an active substance against the dreaded hospital pathogen Staphylococcus aureus: a highly effective protein from bacteriophages ...

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.