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Restless leg syndrome: is it a real problem?

Authors Paul E Cotter, Shaun T O’Keeffe

Published 15 December 2006 Volume 2006:2(4) Pages 465—475


Paul E Cotter, Shaun T O’Keeffe
Department of Geriatric Medicine, Galway University Hospitals, Galway, Ireland
Abstract: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a common condition that is frequently unrecognized, misdiagnosed and poorly managed. It is characterized by uncomfortable sensations deep in the legs developing at rest that compel the person to move; symptoms are worst at night and sleep disturbance is common. RLS occurs in 7%–11% of the population in Western countries, and many such people experience troublesome symptoms. Primary RLS is familial in up to two thirds of patients. RLS may also be secondary to a number of conditions including iron deficiency, pregnancy and end-stage renal failure and, perhaps, neuropathy. Secondary RLS is most common in those presenting for the first time in later life. The pathogenesis of RLS probably involves the interplay of systemic or brain iron deficiency and impaired dopaminergic neurotransmission in the subcortex of the brain. RLS is very responsive to dopaminergic therapies. Rebound of RLS symptoms during the early morning and development of severe symptoms earlier in the day (augmentation) are problematic in those treated for a prolonged period with levodopa. Consequently, dopamine agonists have become first line treatment. Anti-convulsant medications and opioids are helpful in some patients. Correction of underlying problem wherever possible is important in the management of secondary RLS.
Keywords: Restless legs syndrome; sleep; iron deficiency; neuropathy

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