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What medications do doctors use to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS)?

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The following medications are the most widely prescribed to treat restless legs syndrome (RLS). They may be given alone or, in certain cases, in combination. Your doctor will prescribe the best treatment plan for you.

  • Dopamine agonists: These are most often the first medicines used to treat RLS. These drugs, including pramipexole (Mirapex), rotigotine (Neupro), and ropinirole (Requip), act like the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain. Side effects include daytime sleepiness, nausea, and lightheadedness.
  • Dopaminergic agents: These drugs, including Sinemet -- a combination of levodopa and carbidopa -- increase the level of dopamine in the brain and may improve leg sensations in RLS. However, they may cause a worsening of symptoms for some people after daily use. Side effects can also include nausea, vomiting, hallucinations, and involuntary movements (dyskinesias).
  • Benzodiazepines: Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), and temazepam (Restoril), are sedatives. They do not so much relieve symptoms as help you sleep through the symptoms.
  • Opiates: These drugs are most often used to treat pain, but they can also relieve RLS symptoms. Because opiates are very addictive, they are usually used only when other drugs don't work. Hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco) is one example.
  • Anticonvulsants: These agents, such as gabapentin (Neurontin) and gabapentin enacarbil (Horizant), may help relieve the symptoms of RLS as well as any chronic pain or nerve pain.
  • Alpha2 agonists: These agents stimulate alpha2 receptors in the brain stem. This activates nerve cells (neurons) that "turn down" the part of the nervous system that controls muscle involuntary movements and sensations. The drug clonidine (Catapres) is an example.

SOURCES: 

National Sleep Foundation. 

rls.org (Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation).

eMedicine Health. 

FDA.

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on December 20, 2018

SOURCES: 

National Sleep Foundation. 

rls.org (Willis-Ekbom Disease Foundation).

eMedicine Health. 

FDA.

Reviewed by Nayana Ambardekar on December 20, 2018

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