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Update on the management of restless legs syndrome: existing and emerging treatment options

Authors Facheris MF, Hicks AA, Pramstaller P, Pichler I

Published 8 September 2010 Volume 2010:2 Pages 199—212


Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewer comments 3

Maurizio F Facheris1,2, Andrew A Hicks1, Peter P Pramstaller1,2,3, Irene Pichler1
1Institute of Genetic Medicine, European Academy Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC), Bolzano, Italy (Affiliated institute of the University of Lübeck, Lübeck, Germany); 2Department of Neurology, Central Hospital, Bolzano, Italy; 3Department of Neurology, University of Lübeck, Germany

Abstract: Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sensorimotor disorder, characterized by a ­circadian variation of symptoms involving an urge to move the limbs (usually the legs) as well as paresthesias. There is a primary (familial) and a secondary (acquired) form, which affects a wide variety of individuals, such as pregnant women, patients with end-stage renal disease, iron deficiency, rheumatic disease, and persons taking medications. The symptoms reflect a circadian ­fluctuation of dopamine in the substantia nigra. RLS patients have lower dopamine and iron levels in the substantia nigra and respond to both dopaminergic therapy and iron administration. Iron, as a cofactor of dopamine production and a regulator of the expression of dopamine type 2-receptor, has an important role in the RLS etiology. In the management of the disease, the first step is to investigate possible secondary causes and their treatment. Dopaminergic agents are considered as the first-line therapy for moderate to severe RLS. If dopaminergic drugs are contraindicated or not efficacious, or if symptoms are resistant and unremitting, gabapentin or other antiepileptic agents, benzodiazepines, or opioids can be used for RLS therapy. Undiagnosed, wrongly ­diagnosed, and untreated RLS is associated with a significant impairment of the quality of life.

Keywords: pathophysiology, quality of life

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