RLS and Medication

Normally medication is not needed for mild symptoms, but when Restless Legs Syndrome disrupts your life and causes you to suffer sleep deprevation than medication is necessary.

Usually dopaminergic agents and anticonvulsants are prescribed to help bring relief to RLS sufferers. The typical first choice of medication is the class of drugs refered to as dopaminergic agents. They are mainly prescribed for patients with Parkinson’s disease because they alter the activity of dopamine (a chemical that carries messages to the central nervous system).


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved a drug, ropinorole (Requip) for use in treating moderate to severe RLS. Other drugs are often used for RLS although they have not been approved by the FDA for usage in treating RLS.

These drugs are: levodopa and carbidopa (Sinemet, Permax, Mirapex). Side effects that my be experienced are: dizziness, drowsiness, nausea and vomiting. If these side effects persist, the doctor will likely change the medication to another one that has been used to treat RLS.


Opioids (codeine and OxyContin) are given as a last resort because they are addictive. Anticonvulsants such as Tegretol or Neurontin are also being prescribed to help relieve the sensations (creepy-crawly) feelings common to those who suffer from RLS. Side effects include dizziness and drowsiness.

Medications are usually not the first course of action. Lifestyle changes that include avoidance of caffeine, alcohol and nicotine along with improvements in dietary management, the addition of supplements and a guide to daily exercises are usually what are started first in the treatment plan.

Other Techniques

There may also be physical therapy and some self-help techniques prescribed. Medications are usually something that is a choice made only after other treatments and techniques are exhausted without bringing relief to the patient. Medications can bring with them side effects and possible addiction both of which would be undesirable.

As the patient ages, the symptoms of RLS typically worsen so the treatment plan would change with age to be more aggressive and medications may be added to the treatment plan as the patient ages where earlier on medication may not have been needed.

It is not only important for the patient to understand what medications the doctor will be prescribing, but also what the possible side effects may be. It is also important for the patient to let the doctor know about any other medications that he/she may be taking because other medications can have an adverse affect on RLS.

Side Effects

While on medication therapy, it is important for the patient to let the doctor know about any side effects that may be experienced because medication can be adjusted or the patient may be able to be switched to another medication where the side effect will be avoided or lessened.

When undergoing the initial appointment with the doctor the patient will be asked about any medications currently being taken, this is the first chance that the patient has to help with putting together the pieces of the puzzle regarding the diagnosis. Medications can play a major role in diagnosing RLS because certain medications that the patient may already be taking can actually cause RLS symptoms.

The medications that we take can and do have a real effect on our health. When filling out information forms for the doctor regarding medications don’t forget to mention what nutritional supplements that you may be taking as these are important bits of information too.