Medication can help ease leg problems

On Call

December 17, 1996|By Dr. Simeon Margolis | Dr. Simeon Margolis,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I have had difficultly sleeping at night because of a sensation of needing to move my legs. My doctor said I had restless legs syndrome. Several medications have been tried but the symptoms have continued. Can you help?

Restless legs syndrome is a common problem that may affect 5 percent of adults. The characteristic features are an almost irresistible need to move the legs, usually in the evening. Although the episodes can be continuous and distressing, they are not usually painful.

Until recently, the preferred treatment for the syndrome has been carbidopa/levodopa, which is often effective when taken just before bedtime. However, symptoms may recur in the middle of the night. Recent studies at the Johns Hopkins University Sleep Disorders Center have demonstrated that another medication, pergolide, is also an effective treatment.

The researchers concluded that those with mild symptoms or with only periodic leg movements during sleep were more likely to respond to carbidopa/levodopa, while those with severe symptoms improve best with pergolide given at dinner and bed time.

Dr. Margolis is professor of medicine and biological chemistry at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Pub Date: 12/17/96

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