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Ten Common Questions About Restless Legs Syndrome

When Should I Consider Seeing a Doctor About Restless Legs Syndrome?

No one should live with significant discomfort without discussing their symptoms of restless legs syndrome with a doctor. Even if you feel your symptoms are mild, they might be seriously affecting your sleep.

Only you can decide when your restless legs symptoms are affecting your life. If you have the symptoms of restless legs syndrome, consider if you're also:

  • Losing sleep frequently
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Having trouble concentrating

If any of these are present -- or if you just want to feel better -- it's time to talk to your doctor.

Are There Treatments for Restless Legs Syndrome?

There are three FDA-approved drugs for restless legs syndrome: pramipexole (Mirapex), rotigotine (Neupro), ropinirole (Requip), and gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant). All were proven effective in clinical trials in reducing the symptoms of restless legs syndrome.

Physicians also use other medicines not specifically designed for treating restless legs syndrome. These include:

  • Certain anti-seizure medicines other than gabapentin enacarbil, such as carbamazepine (Tegretol)
  • Opiate pain medicines, such as hydrocodone or tramadol
  • "Sedative-hypnotics," such as clonazepam or zolpidem.

 

What Else Can I Do to Cope With Restless Legs Syndrome?

Depression and anxiety commonly result from restless legs syndrome. If you have moderate to severe restless legs symptoms, it's important to find ways to cope with the stress it can cause. Here are a few ways to take control:

  • Work with your doctor: Changes or combinations of medicines are often necessary to control symptoms.
  • Join a support group: www.rls.org can get you started.
  • If you feel overwhelmed by restless legs syndrome, consider speaking with a professional mental health provider.

 

What Is the Connection Between Iron and Restless Legs Syndrome?

Iron deficiency is one of the uncommon causes of restless legs syndrome. Replacing the low iron may improve or eliminate symptoms in these people.

Even for people whose restless legs syndrome has no clear cause -- and who have normal iron levels -- iron is probably involved. Studies show a "brain iron deficiency" in many people with restless legs syndrome. Research is ongoing to discover how and why this happens, and whether therapy can be targeted to this problem.

People with normal iron levels and restless legs syndrome should not take iron pills. Excess iron can cause liver damage and other problems.

What Is the Link Between Restless Legs Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder?

More than 80% of people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). In PLMD, the arms or legs twitch or jerk involuntarily throughout the night. The movements disturb sleep and can contribute to chronic fatigue.

Many people have periodic limb movement disorder by itself, and will never develop restless legs syndrome. However, periodic limb movement disorder sometimes starts before restless legs syndrome.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Joseph Goldberg, MD on March 03, 2012

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