Management of restless legs syndrome in patients on dialysis

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27 Citations (Scopus)


Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is characterised by an urge to move the legs, uncomfortable sensations in the legs and worsening of these symptoms during rest with at least temporary relief brought on by activity. RLS occurs in 3-15% of the general population and in 10-30% of patients on maintenance dialysis. RLS may lead to severe sleep onset or maintenance insomnia, and greatly impaired quality of life. Current recommendations suggest dopaminergic therapy (levodopa or dopamine receptor agonists: pramipexol, ropinirole, pergolide or cabergoline) as the first-line treatment for RLS. This group of medications is effective in reducing RLS symptoms in the general population; limited information is available on the effect of these drugs in patients with renal failure. However, it must be noted that most published studies in uraemic patients had short treatment periods and insufficient statistical power because of small sample size. Frequent adverse effects of levodopa, seen mainly with continuous use, may limit its use significantly. Rebound and augmentation, problems relatively frequently seen with levodopa, seem to be less prevalent with the use of dopamine receptor agonists, although properly designed comparative trials are still needed to address this question. Alternative treatment options for RLS are gabapentin, benzodiazepines and opioids. For all of these medications, there are only very limited data available on their effectiveness and safety profile in patients on maintenance dialysis. Referral to a specialist for RLS management should be considered for patients with refractory RLS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-624
Number of pages18
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 12 2006


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology (medical)

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