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A New Possible Treatment for RLS: Lyrica-What You Should Know

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Doctors and researchers are not completely sure what causes RLS, which makes finding effective medication difficult. However, a new study has uncovered a possible benefit from using the seizure medication Lyrica in curing RLS. Find out more about this study and the risks and benefits of Lyrica below.

Epidemiologic studies show that restless legs syndrome (also called Willis-Ekbom disease) affects about 7 percent of the entire population of North America and Europe. This is a high percentage of people, which means that scientists are always on the hunt for new treatment methods.

In February of 2014, the pharmaceutical research company Pfizer funded a double-blind study on the effectiveness of pregabalin (brand name Lyrica) for restless legs syndrome when compared with pramipexole and placebo. Learn more about this potential new treatment for RLS below.

Original Use

Lyrica (pregabalin) was originally developed as a medication for nerve pain and epilepsy in Europe. In 2004, it was approved for use by the FDA in the United States for the same uses. In 2007, the drug was approved as a treatment for fibromyalgia in the United States. Effectiveness for RLS The study conducted in 2014 examined the possibility of the medication as a treatment for RLS.

In the study, 719 patients were given either a placebo, 0.5 mg pramipexole, 0.25 mg pramipexole, or 300 mg pregabalin for 12 weeks. After the 12 week period, patients underwent 40 weeks of randomly assigned active treatment. The patients in the study used the International RLS (IRLS) Study Group Rating Scale to score the benefits of each treatment method combined with the Clinical Global Impression of Improvement Scale (CGI-I). At 12 weeks, patients taking pregabalin showed a significant improvement in their IRLS and CGI-I score compared to the placebo group. Patients taking pergabalin had a 4.5 improved score on the IRLS scale (placebo group had an improvement of 3.2) and 71 percent had an improved CGI-I score (46 percent of the placebo group improved). When compared with 40 weeks of treatment with current RLS medication pramipexole, augmentation rates were lower in the 0.5 mg dose (2.1 vs 7.7) but only slightly lower in the 0.25 mg group (2.1 vs 5.3).

The augmentation rate is based on if symptoms increase the longer the medication is taken. This data collected by the researchers shows that Lyrica may be a viable treatment option for restless legs syndrome that could be more effective than drugs currently used to treat the condition.

As of March 2014, however, the FDA has not approved Lyrica as a treatment method for RLS. Further studies are necessary to test the safety and effectiveness of this medication for RLS.

After a safety analysis, researchers found that patients were more likely to discontinue use of the medication for RLS in the pregabalin group (27.5 percent) than in the pramipexole group (18.5 percent for the 0.25 group and 23.9 percent for the 0.5 group). This shows that pregabalin may be a riskier treatment option for RLS and may not be the best treatment option. In this particular study, the most common side effects were fatigue, headache, dizziness, and drowsiness.

Side Effects

According to the FDA, Lyrica is responsible for several dangerous and potentially life-threatening side effects. The most common side effects for this medication include swelling, skin rashes, breathing problems, dizziness, headaches, fatigue, weight gain, dry mouth, blurry vision, and trouble concentrating. Serious health risks can occur in a small number of patients (about 1 in 500) and can include:

Serious Side Effects of Lyrica
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • Aggression
  • Allergic reactions
  • Panic attacks
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety 

You should not take Lyrica under the following conditions:

  • If you are pregnant or nursing
  • If you are allergic to pregabalin
  • If you have kidney trouble
  • If you have had depression or are currently depressed
  • If you plan to have children (in animal studies, pregabalin reduced fertility and caused birth defects even when taken by males)
  • If you have heart trouble If you have bleeding problems
  • If you have ever had angioedema

Drug Interactions

Lyrica could interfere with a variety of other medications and drugs. The most common interferences involve the following drugs.

ACE inhibitors: Your chances of dangerous swelling increase while taking these medications in combination with Lyrica.

Diabetes medications Avandia (rosiglitazone), Actos (pioglitazone), Avandamet (contains rosiglitazone and metformin), or Avandia (rosiglitazone): This will increase chances of weight gain and swelling.

Narcotic pain medications like oxycodone, anxiety medications (lorazepam), or tranquilizers: Could make depression and anxiety symptoms worse when taken with Lyrica. May also increase the chance for dizziness or drowsiness.

All drowsy medications: Taking drowsy-inducing medications in combination with Lyrica could make you dangerously sleepy.

Should You Try Lyrica for RLS?

If Lyrica does become approved for RLS, it may provide better control of symptoms than current RLS treatments. However, it could also bring additional unwanted side effects.

According to a study conducted by the University of Rochester School of Medicine in 2006, the augmentation rate for RLS medications is high. The researchers recommended that individuals with RLS go through a drug class rotation of medication which could counteract augmentation. It is possible that Lyrica could provide a temporary alternative to other RLS medications if augmentation occurs.

However, the long-term safety and effectiveness of the medication looks dubious based on the data uncovered by the first study. Further study is necessary to determine if Lyrica could be an effective RLS treatment.

Treating RLS Without Side Effects

The trouble with most RLS treatments today is that the risk of side effects are high. RLS can cause pain and suffering, but if the alternative is to feel dizzy and tired all the time, some patients may choose to live with the original RLS symptoms. However, you do not have to suffer from RLS if you choose to skip traditional medical treatments.

In fact, studies show that there are several natural treatment options that are highly effective in reducing the number of episodes and the severity of episodes. If you suffer from RLS, consider adding some of the following ingredients to your supplement list:

Folic Acid

This essential vitamin is credited with preventing RLS in pregnant women. In a study from 2001, women who took additional folic acid during pregnancy were able to reduce their chances of developing RLS.

Calcium and Magnesium

Magnesium is a necessary mineral for a variety of bodily functions. Studies show that magnesium supplementation can reduce movement and increase sleep in mild or moderate cases of RLS. Calcium is necessary to maximize the absorption of magnesium.


GABA is a natural inhibitory neurotransmitter created in the central nervous system. A form of GABA, called Gabapentin, has been shown in studies to reduce the motor and sensory symptoms of RLS and improve the sleep of RLS patients.


Glycine acts like a neurotransmitter in the brain and can regulate motor reflexes. Animal studies have shown that when glycine is added to supplement routine in addition to RLS medication can boost the anticonvulsant effect of the medication. One natural place to find this essential amino acid is in gelatin.

Other Steps to Reduce RLS Symptoms

In addition to eating the right ingredients, there are a few home remedies you can try to help alleviate RLS symptoms.


Simply massaging the area and relaxing, such as in a hot bath, could help alleviate some of the restlessness and pain associated with RLS. Exercise (not immediately before bed) can also help prevent some episodes of RLS, or make episodes less severe, according to Healthline.

Promote Rest

At bedtime, you may be able to reduce RLS symptoms by creating a restful atmosphere. Never go to bed if you are not tired, but work to create a consistent sleep routine so that when bedtime arrives, you are sleepy. You can do this by engaging in calming activities for an hour or two before bed, keeping electronics out of the bedroom, and drinking a warm beverage or taking a hot bath or shower before bed.

Check for Inflammation

Some evidence points to inflammation as a possible cause for RLS. A study conducted by the Washington University School of Medicine in 2011 examined the link between inflammation and RLS symptoms. The researchers found that about 95 percent of the medical conditions associated with RLS were related to inflammation. The authors concluded that inflammation could be a likely cause for the disorder. Inflammation is caused by a variety of factors, but a diet rich in inflaming foods is one culprit.

Inflaming Foods
  • Pre-packaged foods
  • Vegetable oils
  • Chemical additives
  • Trans fats
  • Processed grains
  • Sugar

New RLS Treatments Not Far Away

Although current RLS treatments usually only work temporarily, researchers continually unveil new treatment options for the conditions. Whether it is a vitamin or mineral deficiency, pregnancy, nervous system miscommunication, inflammation, or simple genetics, it is possible to reduce your RLS episode numbers and severity. If you choose to use the traditional medication route, your results will only be boosted by adding the other treatment options outlined in this article.

Only time will tell if Lyrica will be a safe and effective treatment for RLS, but for now, the best option is to employ a variety of medical and natural methods to alleviate the pain of this annoying medical condition.





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