Restless legs syndrome

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Purpose. The signs and symptoms, epidemiology, etiology, pathophysiology, diagnosis, pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments, and options and guidelines for the treatment of restless legs syndrome (RLS) are reviewed. Summary. RLS was first described in the 17th century and further characterized in 1945. RLS is a common disorder, occurring in about 10% of the population. Patients with RLS often describe the urge to move, uncomfortable sensations, and pain, which begin or worsen during rest or inactivity such as lying or sitting. Symptoms of RLS make sleeping difficult for many patients, and significant daytime difficulties result from the condition. RLS can either be primary or arise from secondary causes that lead to iron deficiency. There is a familial component in primary RLS, but its underlying mechanisms remain unknown. Of individuals with conditions associated with iron-deficiency states, including pregnancy, renal failure, and anemia, 25-30% may develop RLS. The goals of RLS treatment include improving its symptoms and the patient's quality of life. There are limited data on the treatment of RLS. Pharmacologic therapies include iron replacement, dopaminergic agents (e.g., levodopa), dopamine agonists, anticonvulsants, opi-oids, and benzodiazepines. There have been no systematic trials of nonpharmacologic therapies for RLS, but good sleep hygiene and avoidance of alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine may improve symptoms. Conclusion. RLS is a common disorder thought to involve abnormal iron metabolism and dopaminergic systems. Nonpharmacologic therapy should be suggested for all patients with RLS, but pharmacologic therapy may be required, and evidence is strongest for levodopa and dopamine agonists.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1599-1612
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Health-System Pharmacy
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 1 2006


  • Alcohols, ethyl
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antiparkinson agents
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Caffeine
  • Diagnosis
  • Dopamine agonists
  • Epidemiology
  • History
  • Iron preparations
  • Levodopa
  • Nicotine
  • Opiates
  • Protocols
  • Quality of life
  • Restless legs syndrome

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Pharmacy
  • Pharmacology


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