- Restless leg syndrome (RLS) can be temporary (during pregnancy) or chronic and lifelong, due to many medical conditions and genetic risk factors.
- Treatment often includes over-the-counter remedies and lifestyle changes, iron supplementation for confirmed iron deficiency, and prescription medications for pain and relief of symptoms.
Genetic Risk Factors
- People with restless legs syndrome often have a family history of the disorder. Researchers have detected at least six genetic locations or factors that might be responsible for this condition. Two of the genes are associated with spinal cord development. None of the genes have been associated with dopamine or iron-regulating systems, though these are considered strong causal factors.
- In July 2010, the FDA issued a warning of serious, potentially life-threatening side effects resulting from the use of Qualaquin for nighttime leg cramps. These side effects include dangerously low platelet levels in the blood (platelets help the blood clot) and permanent kidney damage.
Potential New Treatments
- Pneumatic compression devices are being studied as an alternative therapy for RLS. In small studies, they have been found to improve symptoms of RLS.
- An antiseizure agent, Gabapentin enacarbil, is showing promise in clinical trials. This new drug has been shown to significantly improve RLS symptoms in adults when taken once daily. Common side effects included mild sleepiness and dizziness.
Hydrocortisone injections may be another treatment option. A recent study showed low cortisol levels were associated with RLS symptoms and improvement was seen in some patients after low-dose hydrocortisone.
Review Date: 10/15/2010
Reviewed By: Reviewed by: Harvey Simon, MD, Editor-in-Chief, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.