From the Literature: Restless Legs Syndrome

Review the key findings from three recently published studies looking at restless legs syndrome.

Poor Effect of Guideline Based Treatment of Restless Legs Syndrome in Clinical Practice

Journal: Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry (September 30, 2010; online ahead of print)

Authors: Godau J, Spinnler N, Wevers AK, et al.

Purpose: “To prospectively assess the success of RLS treatment in the clinical setting and to evaluate potential demographic factors and comorbidities that may influence the response to therapy.”

Results: In both initially untreated and pretreated patients, no statistically significant improvements were seen in RLS symptoms or quality of life after 12 months of treatment based on RLS treatment guidelines from the German Neurological Society. Poor treatment was associated with the presence of neuropsychiatric comorbidity, including somatoform disorders (41% prevalence), chronic pain (32%), anxiety (20%), and major depression (16%). Thus, Godau and colleagues concluded that improve overall outcome in patients with RLS may be better achieved by targeting and treating neuropsychiatric comorbidity.

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Prevalence and Disease Burden of Primary Restless Legs Syndrome: Results of a General Population Survey in the United States

Journal: Movement Disorders (November 10, 2010; online ahead of print)

Authors: Allen R, Bharmal M, Calloway M

Purpose: “To assess prevalence, disease burden, and costs of primary restless legs syndrome (RLS) in the US.”

Results: The use of validated diagnostic tools and exclusion of patients with medical conditions that are likely to cause RLS from a representative US panel “provide a very conservative estimate of US census-weighted prevalence of 2.4% for primary RLS and 1.5% for primary RLS sufferers.” Of respondents, roughly one-third had a physician diagnosis of RLS, with primary RLS sufferers experiencing a mean productivity loss of one day per week. “All RLS-related costs increased with RLS symptom severity, with increasingly significant decrements in health status, sleep disturbance, and work productivity.” Allen and colleagues concluded that even their “very conservative approach finds RLS in this cohort to be common, under-diagnosed, and carried a significant personal and social burden.”

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Restless Legs Syndrome and Near-infrared Light: An Alternative Treatment Option

Journal: Physiotherapy Theory and Practice (October 26, 2010; online ahead of print)

Authors: Mitchell U, Myrer J, Johnson A, Hilton S

Purpose: To evaluate “the effectiveness of monochromatic near-infrared light treatment in decreasing symptoms associated with” restless legs syndrome (RLS), as few options are available for managing RLS, leaving new treatment options highly sought after.

Results: A steady decrease in RLS-associated symptoms was seen over four weeks in subjects who underwent 12 30-minute treatments to their lower legs with near-infrared light, leading to significantly greater improvement in these symptoms at treatment, and even four weeks following treatment, than seen in a control group, compared to baseline. “This new noninvasive method of treating RLS might become a valuable new management option,” wrote the authors, adding that more “research is needed to determine the mechanism(s) behind infrared light treatment and RLS.”

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