Restless Legs Syndrome: Treatment

Movement can bring temporary relief to people with restless legs syndrome. However, some cases of RLS can be controlled by finding and treating any underlying disorders, like neuropathy, arthritis, or diabetes. In patients without an underlying disorder, treatment focuses on relieving symptoms.

Preventing restless legs syndrome symptoms:

  • Decrease the consumption of caffeine and alcohol. Reduce tobacco use.
  • Correct iron deficiencies with diet and supplements.
  • Correct other deficiencies — like folate or magnesium — with diet and supplements.
  • Maintain a regular sleep pattern. Some patients find that sticking to a regular schedule can help reduce symptoms. Others find that symptoms are less in the early morning hours and change sleep schedules accordingly.
  • Regular moderate exercise has helped some patients with restless legs syndrome; too much exercise can aggravate symptoms.
  • Heat therapy before bed can help relieve symptoms. Try a hot bath or a heating pad.
  • Massage therapy can help relieve symptoms.
  • Talk to your doctor about the medications you take (both prescription and over the counter) to see if any of them could be making your RLS worse. Possible culprits could include blood pressure medications, other heart medications, antinausea medication, and some cold and allergy medications.

There are some prescription medicines available to help treat symptoms of restless legs syndrome. Some dopaminergic agents (which are used to treat Parkinson’s disease) can reduce RLS symptoms and are often the first treatment tried. Dopaminergics can produce good short-term results but can lead to augmentation: symptoms are reduced at night but develop earlier in the day. Benzodiazepines are often prescribed for patients with mild or occasional symptoms.

In 2005, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug specifically for the treatment of moderate to severe restless legs syndrome: ropinirole. Unfortunately, no one medication works for everyone with RLS. It may take a period of trial and error to find a medication that works for you.

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