Restless legs syndrome
Odin P, Mrowka M, Shing M.
Department of Neurology,
Central Hospital, Bremerhaven, Germany.
Eur J Neurol 2002 Nov;9 Suppl 3:59-67


Restless legs syndrome (RLS), first described in 1672 and given its name in 1945, is one of the most common sleep and movement disorders. Modern population-based studies demonstrate a prevalence between 5% and 15% in adult white populations. According to the diagnostic criteria, RLS is defined as an irresistable desire to move limbs, usually associated with paresthesias/dysesthesias and motor restlessness. The symptoms start or worsen at rest and improve with activity. Additionally, the symptoms worsen in the evenings and/or nights, which often results in disturbance of sleep with daytime tiredness. There is often a family history of RLS. Initially, the disease course is usually fluctuating and later may become continuous or chronic-progressive. The diagnosis is based on the patient history and is supported by a normal neurological examination. RLS is confirmed by the finding of periodic limb movements (PLM) in polysomnographic investigations and by a response to dopaminergic medication. A large number of studies have confirmed the effect of levodopa (L-dopa) in the treatment of RLS. A majority of the patients treated over a longer period of time with L-dopa, however, develop problems with an effect called augmentation, where the RLS symptoms begin appearing earlier during the day and involve new parts of the body with increasing severity. A large number of studies have now confirmed that dopamine agonists can also be effective in RLS therapy, and that this treatment seems to involve less risk for augmentation. This paper provides a general review of RLS with a focus on current treatment options.
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