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Restless Legs Syndrome - Treatment Overview

Treatment for restless legs syndrome is based on the type of symptoms you have and how bad your symptoms are. Getting regular exercise and enough sleep may relieve mild symptoms. Medicines may be tried when symptoms are severe and interfere with sleep and daily functioning. If your symptoms are being caused by another medical condition (such as iron deficiency anemia), that condition can be treated first.

Initial treatment

Changing your daily routine is sometimes enough to control your symptoms. Stretching, walking, exercising regularly, taking a hot or cold bath, using massage, losing weight if you are overweight, and avoiding smoking and caffeine may reduce or control your symptoms.

If your symptoms are caused by another medical condition such as diabetes or iron deficiency anemia, you will be treated for that condition first. For example, if iron deficiency is causing restless legs syndrome, you will be prescribed iron supplements.

For restless legs syndrome that starts during pregnancy, your doctor may recommend conservative treatment, such as regular exercise and stretching, to relieve symptoms. Your condition may be reevaluated if it doesn't go away after you have given birth.

Children who have restless legs syndrome are not usually treated with drugs right away. First regular, moderate exercise and regular sleep routines are tried. If this treatment is not effective, the doctor may prescribe medicine.

Ongoing treatment

If your symptoms do not improve, drugs may be used to control the urge to move and help you sleep, such as:

Also, your doctor may prescribe drugs like zolpidem (for example, Ambien) or eszopiclone (Lunesta) alone or together with dopamine agonists, opioids, or anticonvulsants.

If your doctor recommends medicine, make sure that you discuss expectations and understand the potential benefits and risks of the drug. Let your doctor know about all of the other drugs you are taking. Drugs taken for other conditions sometimes contribute to restless legs syndrome. For example, antidepressants improve restless legs syndrome in some people but make it worse in others.

Treatment if the condition gets worse

If you continue to have symptoms even though you are receiving treatment with drugs and are exercising regularly, eating right, and not smoking or using caffeine, your symptoms may need to be reevaluated. Many other conditions can cause the sensations found in restless legs syndrome, including several vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Your doctor may recommend different drugs or a combination of drugs. Follow up with your doctor if your symptoms do not improve.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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