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Gabapentin Can Treat RLS Symptoms

Seizure Medication Relieves Discomfort of Restless Legs

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Updated March 19, 2012

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Gabapentin Can Treat RLS Symptoms
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The prescription drug gabapentin (sold under the trade name Neurontin or Horizant) is a commonly used medication that can help treat the symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS).

Uses of Gabapentin

Gabapentin can be used to treat the symptoms of restless legs syndrome (RLS). It may be especially helpful if the symptoms are perceived as less intense yet painful. In individuals with a history of peripheral neuropathy or chronic pain, it may be of added benefit. Furthermore, gabapentin may be helpful to treat RLS in the context of other neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease or dementia.

How Does Gabapentin Work?

Gabapentin is a medication that has been used to treat seizures. It is similar in structure to GABA, which is present in nerve cells, but it does not interact with the same receptors. It is not known how gabapentin works to improve the symptoms of RLS.

Who Should Not Use Gabapentin?

Gabapentin is a relatively safe drug that can be used by most people. There are a few situations where caution may be indicated. For example, if you have impaired kidney function, are elderly, or have depression you may want to be cautious. If these situations apply to you, you may want to speak to your physician before taking gabapentin.

What Are Common Side Effects of Gabapentin?

As with any drug, there are many potential side effects with the use of gabapentin. Although an individual would not be expected to experience most side effects -- and may indeed not have any of them -- some that occur with gabapentin may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Sleepiness
  • Difficulty walking
  • Swelling in your feet
  • Nystagmus (jittery eye movements)
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Shakiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of sensation
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Infection
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Runny nose
  • Strange thinking
  • Slurred speech
  • Stomach upset
  • Weight gain

What Are Potential Serious Reactions of Gabapentin?

Serious side effects of gabapentin occur rarely, but can include:

  • Abnormal blood counts (leukopenia or thrombocytopenia)
  • Continuous seizures
  • Withdrawal after stopping the drug abruptly
  • Abnormal movements
  • Depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Fractures
  • Severe rash
  • Kidney failure

What Safety Precautions Need to Be Taken With Gabapentin?

Gabapentin requires a blood test to evaluate kidney function at baseline. It will be important to monitor for signs of depression, unusual behavior changes, and thoughts of suicide. The safety of gabapentin use in pregnancy and with breastfeeding is not known. As above, there are certain individuals who should use gabapentin with caution or not at all. If you experience any difficulties, you should be in close contact with your primary health provider.

Sources:

"Gabapentin." Epocrates Rx Pro. Version 2.90, 2009. Epocrates, Inc. San Mateo, California.

Garcia-Borreguero, D. et al. "Treatment of restless legs syndrome with gabapentin: a double-blind, cross-over study." Neurology. 2002; 59:1573.

Happe, S. et al. "Treatment of idiopathic restless legs syndrome (RLS) with gabapentin." Neurology. 2001; 57:1717.

Silber, MH et al. "An algorithm for the management of restless legs syndrome." Mayo Clin Proc. 2004; 79:916.

Thorp, ML et al. "A crossover study of gabapentin in treatment of restless legs syndrome among hemodialysis patients." Am J Kidney Dis. 2001; 38:104.

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