, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 177–187 | Cite as

Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome

  • Cynthia L. ComellaEmail author


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common disorder diagnosed by the clinical characteristics of restlessness in the legs associated often with abnormal sensations that start at rest and are improved by activity, occurring with a diurnal pattern of worsened symptoms at night and improvement in the morning. RLS is the cause of impaired quality of life in those more severely afflicted. Treatment of RLS has undergone considerable change over the last few years. Several classes of medications have demonstrated efficacy, including the dopaminergic agents and the alpha-2-delta ligands. Levodopa was the first dopaminergic agent found to be successful. However, chronic use of levodopa is frequently associated with augmentation that is defined as an earlier occurrence of symptoms frequently associated with worsening severity and sometimes spread to other body areas. The direct dopamine agonists, including ropinirole, pramipexole, and rotigotine patch, are also effective, although side effects, including daytime sleepiness, impulse control disorders, and augmentation, may limit usefulness. The alpha-2-delta ligands, including gabapentin, gabapentin enacarbil, and pregabalin, are effective for RLS without known occurrence of augmentation or impulse control disorders, although sedation and dizziness can occur. Other agents, including the opioids and clonazepam do not have sufficient evidence to recommend them as treatment for RLS, although in an individual patient, they may provide benefit.


Restless leg syndrome Levodopa Dopamine agonists Alpha-2-delta ligands Opioids Placebo effect 


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© The American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, Inc. 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Movement Disorders Section, Department of Neurological SciencesRush Medical CollegeChicagoUSA

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