Restless leg syndrome (RLS) affects 10% of the population with 3% suffering from severe symptoms. Patients suffering from RLS complain of difficulty falling asleep because of uncomfortable sensation in their legs which is temporarily improved by moving their legs or getting up and walking around. The movement of the legs persists in sleep and interferes with the deep restful stages of sleep leading to tiredness during the day. Many patient do not realize they have a problem because they’ve had it all their lives and because one of their parents also had it.Researchers reporting in the recent issue of journal Nature Genetics say they have found proof of the genetic nature of RLS. However, not all patients with these symptoms have RLS. Iron deficiency, peripheral nerve damage and antidepressant medications can cause symptoms of RLS. Another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea can at times mimic RILS and a sleep study may be needed to establish the diagnosis.Treatment of RLS involves the use of medications such as Requip, Mirapex, which belong to a category of drugs called dopamine agonists (they are also used to treat Parkinson’s disease, but these two conditions are not related). Some epilepsy drugs, including Neurontin and Topamax and particularly opioid analgesics, such as hydrocodone and oxycodone can be effective.Sleep deprivation or poor quality of sleep can be a major trigger for migraine headaches. We see many patients with RLS at the NYHC and treating their RLS will often improve their headaches.

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