Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a condition that often coexists with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) and is a major cause of sleep disturbances such as insomnia. The condition can prove difficult to treat and researchers are always on the lookout for new avenues of treatment for the debilitating syndrome which affects one in ten adults.
Now, a drug that is in wide use for the treatment of seizures and anxiety has been found to give relief for sufferers of RLS. The off-label use of pregabalin appears to give restless legs syndrome sufferers a better night’s rest, claim the researchers of a recent study. This new trial was carried out over a 12 week period and involved 58 RLS patients. Out of the 58, 30 participants were treated with pregabalin, and the other 28 received a placebo. The researchers performed sleep studies at the beginning and at the conclusion of the clinical trial.
The research team discovered that almost two-thirds of those participants in the pregabalin group were symptom-free during the course of the trial. In those patients in the pregabalin group who remained symptomatic, there was still an improvement in symptoms in up to 66% while taking pregabalin, while 29% of those in the group taking the placebo said their symptoms had worsened.
Those taking pregabalin had a better night’s rest with the drug. The study demonstrated that the pregabalin group spent the most time in Stage 3 sleep, also known as slow wave or deep sleep. This same group was seen to spend less time in the lighter stages of sleep known as Stages 1 and 2 as opposed to those participants receiving the placebo.
Study author Diego Garcia-Borreguero, MD, the director of the Madrid, Spain-based Sleep Research Institute said, “Since RLS symptoms get worse at night, it’s difficult for people with RLS to get adequate sleep. However, our findings show pregabalin helped people get more deep sleep.”
Garcia-Borreguero added that since pregabalin is well-tolerated, it may prove a practical alternative to treatments in current use for RLS and that in addition to this benefit, the drug brings about a significant improvement in sleep quality. Pregabalin is already approved for use in fibromyalgia, epilepsy, general anxiety, and nerve pain.
The symptoms of restless legs syndrome include a continuous urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable tingling, numbness, or burning sensations. The symptoms worsen when the patient is at rest, and only a bit of short-lived relief is found when the patient resumes activity. RLS is worse at night and symptoms tend to be progressive.