Management of restless legs syndrome augmentation

Anne-Marie Williams, Diego Garcia-Borreguero
Current Treatment Options in Neurology 2009, 11 (5): 327-32
Augmentation is the main complication of long-term dopaminergic treatment of restless legs syndrome (RLS). Although augmentation was first described in 1996 and is characterized by an overall increase in severity of RLS symptoms (earlier onset of symptoms during the day, faster onset of symptoms when at rest, spreading of symptoms to the upper limbs and trunk, and shorter duration of the treatment effect), precise diagnostic criteria were not established until 2003. These criteria were updated in 2007 to form a new definition of augmentation based on multicenter studies. Augmentation should be differentiated from early morning rebound, natural progression of the disease, tolerance, and neuroleptic-induced akathisia. Treatment strategies will depend on the degree of clinical significance but will be based on the use of longer-acting drugs and a reduction or substitution of the dopaminergic agents. The most effective preventive measure is to keep the dose of the dopaminergic medication as low as possible, ensuring that it does not exceed the dose recommended by regulatory authorities. RLS augmentation needs to be treated only if it is clinically relevant-that is, if it has a significant impact on the patient's daily activities. Mild cases should be followed closely, however. In severe cases, a change of treatment (sometimes even within the same class of drugs) can be effective, although before taking this step, it should be verified that all factors that may affect augmentation (changes in lifestyle, iron deficiency, serotonin reuptake inhibitors) have been excluded.

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