Restless legs syndrome may result from a number of seemingly natural causes. It can also occur as a direct result of medical treatment. I experienced this when hospitalized during a stressful period of my life, during which I contracted RLS. When that became known, I was given corrective treatment.
My treatment included psychotropic medicines, such as Thorazine (chlorpromazine) and Mellaril (thioridazine). As Psychiatry Weekly says, psychotropic medications may cross the brain-barrier and directly affect the central nervous system, affecting nervous system chemical alterations that modify mood and personality traits. Treatment with pyschotropic medication is designed to help, but invariably introduces side effects.
Although most can deal with minor side effects such as dry mouth or a slight stomach upset, more serious side effects prove challenging; psychotropic medications can produce some very trying side effects. In my case, I experienced restless legs syndrome. RLS was certainly not minor for me — the stress I was hospitalized for was caused by extreme sleep deprivation.
How did I learn I had restless legs syndrome? I requested to see my attending physician. He asked why I wanted to see him and could I describe what I was feeling? I told him I was having difficulty with my legs, but that I didn’t exactly know how to describe it – I wasn’t in any pain, my legs weren’t hurting — they were just restless. He said, “You’re an expressive person. You just diagnosed yourself. We call it restless legs.”
I asked about the cause and the cure. The doctor told me it was the medications I was taking, and that RLS is a common side effect. The doctor told me I could continue to take those medications if he also prescribed cogentin (benztropine mesylate) to counter the restless legs syndrome. I learned in time that it works for some RLS sufferers, but it was less than dynamic in helping me. But what is the logic in inventing a pill just to counter the side effects of other pills? Why use cogentin to treat medicinally-induced RLS?
Cogentin is often prescribed to Parkinson’s Disease sufferers. Parkinson’s patients experience an increased incidence of restless legs syndrome. If it can successfully be used to treat Parkinson’s Disease, it should be useful in treating manifestations that mimic the disease, such as Parkinsonism and extrapyramidal side effects (EPSE). And since it is successfully used to treat restless legs syndrome in Parkinson’s Disease, it should be useful in countering medication-induced RLS.
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Neurology and Neurosurgery
- American Academy of Sleep Medicine: Restless leg syndrome